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Decision No. 13,903

Appeal of PAMELA E. DELEEWERK, on behalf of MICHAEL FALANGA, from action of the Board of Education of the Commack Union Free School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 13,903

(March 30, 1998)

Cahn, Wishod & Lamb, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Eugene R. Barnosky, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the denial by the Board of Education of the Commack Union Free School District ("respondent") of her request to change the transportation pick-up point for her son, and seeks an order directing the relocation of that pick-up point. The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 1996-97 school year, petitioner's son Michael was a ten year old, sixth grade student at Commack Middle School. Petitioner alleges that in prior years school buses stopped between 16 Kevin Road, petitioner's address, and 20 Kevin Road. Specifically, petitioner alleges that Kevin Road was a designated bus stop for two intermediate schools and for a disabled high school student, and that children on the middle school bus persuaded the driver to stop there. On April 23, 1996, petitioner wrote to respondent's transportation office asking that the middle school bus continue to stop on Kevin Road. On August 28, 1996, she received Michael's bus pass which designated his bus stop at the intersection of Kevin Road and Nagle Lane, a distance of less than 600 feet from petitioner's home. On August 28 and 30, petitioner discussed her request with an employee in the transportation office and with Assistant Superintendent James A. Feltman. Respondent denies petitioner's allegations as to what was said in her conversation with Mr. Feltman, but admits that it took place, and that her request was denied. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner contends that the school bus travels along Kevin Road, and that the requested stop could be added without changing the route or affecting any other children, and that her ten year old son should not have to walk to the designated bus stop and wait for the bus unattended, especially in inclement weather.

Respondent contends that petitioner has failed to exhaust her administrative remedy by appealing to the board of education under School Board Policy 5150, that the designated bus stop is safe and appropriate, and that if the district provided door-to-door transportation for petitioner's son it would have to provide similar service for other pupils.

Respondent argues that the appeal should be dismissed for failure to exhaust an administrative remedy. Particularly, respondent maintains that petitioner did not appeal Mr. Feltman's determination to the board under Policy 5150. Although I commend respondent's policy of encouraging local resolution of disputes, in this instance the provisions of School Board Policy 5150 have not been introduced in evidence and there is nothing in statute requiring that petitioner appeal first to the board of education before exercising her right to initiate an appeal pursuant to Education Law "310. Consequently, there is no basis to dismiss this appeal for failure to exhaust an administrative remedy.

The appeal, however, must be dismissed on the merits. The location of school bus stops is a matter within the discretion of the local school authorities (Appeal of Lydia Peikon-Cotz, 35 Ed Dept Rep 352; Appeal of Waklatsi, 33 id. 552; Appeal of Czerepak, 31 id. 448) provided the board uses care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Peikon-Cotz, supra). In designating pick-up points, a board must consider and balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, 37 Ed Dept Rep 83; Appeal of Marsh, 36 id. 134; Appeal of Mechanick, 33 id. 692; Appeal of Donk, et al., 27 id. 254; Appeal of Taylor, 26 id. 255).

In this case, I cannot find that the designated bus stop is unreasonable. The Associate Superintendent for Operations personally inspected the site and found it to be safe. The record indicates that both roads are generally lightly traveled, and petitioner's son is only required to walk a distance of less than six hundred feet. The fact that Nagle Lane is occasionally used by emergency vehicles does not make it unsafe. Thus, I find respondent's determination to be a reasonable exercise of its discretion. Moreover, while I am sympathetic to petitioner's concerns about her son's safety, it is the responsibility of a student's parents, not the school district, to ensure a student's safety in traveling to and from the designated pick-up point (Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, supra). Based on the record before me, I cannot conclude that respondent's determination is an abuse of its discretion.