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Decision No. 13,484

Appeal of RICHARD E. COOPER, on behalf of ANDREW S. COOPER, from action of the Board of Education of the Jericho Union Free School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 13,484

(September 19, 1995)

Ingerman, Smith, Greenberg, Gross, Richmond, Heidelberger, Reich & Scricca, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Lawrence W. Reich, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Jericho Union Free School District ("respondent") that his son is not entitled to early transportation services. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner is a resident of the district and his son, Andrew, is a student at respondent's high school. Respondent provides early bus service to high school students in the district. In the southern and eastern portions of the district that are closest to respondent's high school and middle school, an early bus picks up students at 7:30 AM. and transports them to the high school by approximately 7:45 to 7:50 AM. About 500 high school students live in this part of respondent's district.

Respondent provides early bus transportation to students living in the northern and western parts of the district, but due to proximity and density of the student population, high school students who wish to participate in before-school activities are required to take the middle school bus, which arrives at the high school at approximately 7:25 AM. About 100 high school students, including petitioner, live in this part of respondent's district. On March 1, 1995, petitioner's son requested separate early bus service to the high school and respondent denied that request. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner alleges that the early bus service with middle school students is inconvenient and arrives too early at the high school, requiring his son to wait before extracurricular activities begin. Petitioner thus requests early separate bus service for his son. Respondent contends that it would be inefficient and costly to provide separate bus service to petitioner's son. Respondent also claims that based on proximity, scheduling and density, it is providing appropriate services to students in the district. It argues that its refusal to provide petitioner's son with separate bus services was not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.

Boards of education have both the responsibility and the authority to decide the difficult questions involved in balancing the overall efficiency and economy of a transportation system against the convenience of individual pupils (Matter of McBennett, 17 Ed Dept Rep 404). The Commissioner of Education will uphold a district's transportation determination, unless it is tainted by bad faith or is so clearly wrong that it amounts to an abuse of discretion (Matter of Polifka, 31 Ed Dept Rep 61; Matter of McBennett, 17 id. 404). Upon my review of the record, I do not find bad faith or an abuse of discretion.

First, respondent's decision makes sense in light of the particular circumstances of the district. Due to differences in population density and geographic distance, the district provides transportation services to its diverse communities in different ways. The arrangement employed by respondent is the most efficient and economical way possible to accommodate all students. To grant petitioner's request for separate busing, respondent would need to spend $75,000 to purchase additional vehicles. This is a waste of resources, especially considering that respondent has no legal obligation to provide identical transportation to all students. Respondent must merely provide equivalent transportation to all students under like circumstances, which it has done.

Moreover, while Andrew may be inconvenienced by the early arrival time of the middle school bus, he can still arrive at school in time for extracurricular activities that occur before the start of school. There is simply no evidence that the transportation arrangement impairs his ability to participate in school activities.