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Decision No. 13,567

Appeal of LYDIA PEIKON-COTZ, on behalf of her son, ZACHARY PEIKON, from action of the Board of Education of the Ramapo Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 13,567

(March 12, 1996)

Greenberg, Wanderman & Fromson, attorneys for respondents, Stephen M. Fromson, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the refusal of the Board of Education of the Ramapo Central School District ("respondent") to move the transportation drop-off point for her son, Zachary. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner lives within respondent school district at the intersection of Mile Road and East Mayer Drive. Petitioner alleges that her son's bus stop had been located at the southwest corner of the intersection, which was on her property. In August 1995, respondent notified petitioner that the drop-off point for her son would be moved to the northwest corner of the intersection, across East Mayer Drive. Petitioner expressed her concerns about the safety of the drop-off location. In response, respondent moved the drop-off point down East Mayer Drive, 100 feet away from the intersection.

Petitioner alleges that the current drop-off point is hazardous because there is a sharp change in elevation between the two roads and because cars turning from Mile Road onto East Mayer Drive may not see the bus in time to stop. She also argues that both roads are dangerous and that high school students who use these roads to access the high school drive at excessive rates of speed. She requests a determination that the southwest corner of Mile Road and East Mayer Drive is the only safe and appropriate location for her son to be picked up and dropped off.

Respondent contends that petitioner fails to state a cause of action or demonstrate that she is entitled to relief. Respondent contends that petitioner has not shown that the school district failed to consider and balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs. Respondent further argues that the stop is not unsafe, rather, that it is located on a development street with a 30 mile per hour speed limit and is similar to many pick-up points in suburban areas. Respondent contends that the bus stop in question meets all district safety criteria, and is consistent with the Education Law, Commissioner's regulations and decisions of the Commissioner.

I have exercised broad discretion in this case to allow both parties to submit documentation in support of their arguments. Both sides provided affidavits from experts supporting their respective positions. Petitioner provided an affidavit from a traffic engineer who concluded that the current drop-off point provided "inadequate visibility for safety" and suggested reversing the route to enhance the safety of petitioner's son. Respondent provided an affidavit from a NASA safety advisor, who is also a pupil transportation consultant. He concluded that the stop is "consistent with all generally accepted safety principles," that the visibility was adequate, and that the stop was typical of properly located bus stops in suburban areas.

Respondent provided a video tape, showing a school bus at the bus stop over a period of seven days. Petitioner contends that the tape was contrived and provided police department records, which indicated 18 accidents and 58 traffic violations on Mile Road between January 1993 and August 1995. Petitioner also alleges that this controversy is motivated by the superintendent's malice toward her, her son, and Judaism.

While I am sympathetic to petitioner's concerns about her son's safety, there is no basis on the record before me to overturn respondent's decision. A board of education may exercise its discretion when designating pick-up and drop-off points, provided that the board uses care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Krauciunas, 35 Ed Dept Rep 107; Appeal of Pauldine, 35 id. 54; Appeal of Icenogle, 34 id. 406; Appeal of Behan, 34 id. 368). In establishing a pick-up point, a board of education must consider and balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Krauciunas, supra; Appeal of Pauldine, supra; Appeal of Icenogle, supra; Appeal of Behan, supra).

My review of the record indicates that respondent's determination was neither arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious. The record demonstrates that respondent considered pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs in establishing its current transportation plan and investigated the safety of the drop-off point after petitioner raised her concerns. Indeed, the factors petitioner raises -- that the drop-off point is near an intersection, that her child must cross the road, and that there is a change in elevation -- are identical to the characteristics of many pickup points in rural and suburban areas, and are not, in and of themselves, a basis for deeming the current drop-off point unsafe. Rather, in a case in which a district considered pupil safety in developing its transportation plan and inspected the challenged site finding no hazard, the Commissioner found no reason to substitute his judgment where a pick-up point had limited visibility and where the children were required to walk on an unlit roadway with a 55 m.p.h. speed limit (Appeal of Krauciunas, supra). In addition, the Courts have held that the safety of children between home and pickup points is the responsibility of parents, not school districts (Pratt v. Robinson, 39 NY2d 554).

I have considered the petitioner's remaining contentions and find them without merit.