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Decision No. 12,560

Appeal of BENJAMIN B. BEDELL, on behalf of Quinn Miller-Bedell, from action of the Board of Education of the North Rockland Central School District relating to transportation.

Decision No. 12,560

(August 7, 1991)

O'Connell & Riley, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, James K. Riley, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals from respondent's refusal to relocate the pickup point designated by respondent for the transportation of his son to and from school. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner's son is a second grade student attending the Waldorf Green Meadow School in respondent's district. Respondent has designated a transportation pickup point for the student which is located approximately 153 yards from the intersection of a public highway with a private road leading to petitioner's residence. Petitioner's son is the only student presently receiving transportation at such pickup point. A commercial establishment which dispenses groceries and alcoholic beverages is adjacent to the pickup point. It appears that from mid-September, 1990 until early December, 1990, the school bus driver assigned to transport petitioner's son, upon his own initiative and without authorization from respondent, did not use the designated pickup point, but instead entered the private road leading to petitioner's residence for purposes of pickup and discharge of the student. Subsequently, the driver was directed to cease such practice and use the designated pickup point. Petitioner then requested that respondent change the designated site to either a location on the private road or at its intersection with the public highway.

Petitioner contends that respondent's designation of the pickup point for petitioner's son is arbitrary and capricious in that respondent has failed to properly weigh concerns for efficiency and economy against those of safety and convenience. Petitioner alleges that the designated site poses a hazard to his son and that no additional burden would be placed on respondent to change the site to permit door-to-door transportation or to move the pickup point to the intersection of the private road and the public highway.

Respondent contends that the designated site is the most appropriate location for the pickup and discharge of students and that petitioner seeks to have door-to-door transportation of his son without appropriate legal grounds and in contravention of the provisions set forth in Education Law section 3635. Respondent also contends that the petition fails to state a cause of action or grounds upon which relief may be granted as a matter of law.

Section 275.10 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education provides that the petition:

". . . .shall contain a clear and concise statement of the petitioner's claim showing that the petitioner is entitled to relief, and shall further contain a demand for the relief to which the petitioner deems himself entitled. Such statement must be sufficiently clear to advise the respondent of the nature of petitioner's claim and of the specific act or acts complained of."

The petition, in essence, contends that respondent has abused its discretion in designating a transportation pickup site for petitioner's son. In view of this, I cannot find, as a matter of law, that the petition fails to state a cause of action or grounds upon which relief may be granted.

Nevertheless, upon the record before me, the appeal must be dismissed on the merits. A board of education may exercise its discretion in designating pickup points (Appeal of Klein, 27 Ed Dept Rep 76; Appeal of Bohonyi, 26 id 363; Appeal of Taylor, 26 id 255; Matter of Ryan, 24 id 125), provided that the board uses care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Klein, supra; Appeal of Bohonyi, supra; Matter of Scheinberg, 21 Ed Dept Rep 32). In establishing a pickup point, a board of education must consider and balance considerations of public safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Donk, et al, 27 Ed Dept Rep 254; Appeal of Taylor, supra). A school district is not obligated to provide transportation over private thoroughfares; however, neither is a school district precluded, as a matter of law, from providing transportation over a private road (Appeal of Taylor, supra).

Petitioner contends that respondent abused its discretion in designating the present pickup point because petitioner's son is required to walk approximately 153 yards along a busy highway with no sidewalks in order to reach the pickup point, which location itself is allegedly unsafe in that it is adjacent to a commercial establishment which sells alcoholic beverages and is allegedly the scene of public drinking and incidents of harassment. Petitioner further contends that no additional burden would be placed on respondent in changing the pickup point to either door-to-door pickup or the intersection of the private road with the public highway.

Respondent contends that the designated pickup point is the best location since it provides room for the school bus to pull to the right side of the roadway and allows students to enter and exit the bus in comparative safety. Respondent further contends that neither of the alternatives proposed by petitioner would be appropriate as a pickup point. In order to enter the private road leading to petitioner's residence, a vehicle must exit the public highway and cross a very narrow wooden bridge approximately twenty feet in length, which bridge has a steep slope on each end. Respondent contends that it would be unsafe for a school bus or mini-van to use the private road since a vehicle would need to make an immediate turn from the public highway onto the private road, which would create safety problems when exiting or entering the private road. Furthermore, the private road and bridge are maintained on a private and undetermined basis by the owners of houses located along such road.

Respondent contends that it would also be inappropriate to require a school vehicle to stop at the intersection of the private road with the public highway since the vehicle would be stopped at the bottom of a grade located on a curve, thereby presenting visibility problems. In addition, there would be no place at such location for the vehicle to turn around.

Upon the record before me, I do not find respondent's refusal to change the designated pickup point to be arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. The record supports respondent's rejection of the sites proposed by the petitioner, particularly in view of the location of the private road's intersection at the bottom of a grade located on a curve, and the narrow bridge located on a privately maintained road.

Furthermore, I do not find the location of the designated pickup point to be inappropriate. It appears from the record that the commercial establishment adjacent to the pickup point is a typical rural or suburban neighborhood store, presenting no more or less a hazard than any other similar commercial establishment.

Petitioner's contention that the walk along the highway to reach the pickup point is hazardous is insufficient to make the pickup point inappropriate, since the legal responsibility for transporting the child between the home and pickup point rests with the parent (Pratt, et al. v. Robinson, et al., 39 NY2d 554; Matter of Studley, et al. v. Allen, et al., 24 AD2d 678; Matter of Ryan, supra).