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Decision No. 15,148

Appeal of ANNE SMITH, on behalf of her children JASON and MORGAN EDWARDS, from action of the Board of Education of the Saugerties Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 15,148

(December 9,2004)

Shaw & Perelson, LLP, attorneys for petitioner, Marc E. Sharff, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the determination of the Board of Education of the Saugerties Central School District ("respondent") denying her children door-to-door transportation. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner resides within respondent�s district with her two elementary school-aged children, Jason and Morgan. In August 2003, petitioner inquired as to why her children were not picked up in front of their house. According to petitioner, respondent�s transportation director advised her that, if students live within one-half mile of a bus stop, the district does not pick them up at their home. Petitioner then hired a professional surveyor who determined that the distance from petitioner's home to their bus stop exceeded one-half mile. Petitioner provided this information to district officials.

By letter dated December 22, 2003, respondent�s acting superintendent advised petitioner that the district had surveyed the distance and found it to be less than one-half mile. Shortly thereafter, petitioner met with the acting superintendent who informed her that the district would move the bus stop closer to petitioner�s home to eliminate any question that the stop was more than one-half mile from petitioner�s home. According to petitioner, he further explained that the district would not provide bus service to petitioner�s house because that would require a small bus, which was not available. This appeal ensued.

Petitioner alleges that respondent picks up other children in front of their homes and contends that its refusal to provide similar service to her children is arbitrary and capricious. Petitioner requests that I order respondent to provide her children with door-to-door transportation, or alternatively, to alter its transportation policy "to ensure equal treatment of all children who are similarly situated. "

Respondent avers that it does not pick up students in front of their homes unless the district is unable to designate a safe bus stop within one-half mile of the home or the district is required by law to pick up the student. Respondent maintains that its decision regarding the bus stop location was properly based on safety concerns and was rational. Additionally, respondent contends that the appeal is moot.

To the extent that petitioner argues that the former bus stop location exceeds respondent�s half-mile policy limit for elementary students, the appeal is moot. The record reflects that respondent moved the bus stop closer to petitioner�s home, and petitioner does not dispute that the new stop is less than a half-mile from her home.

To the extent that petitioner claims that similarly situated children are not treated equally and that her children are entitled to door-to-door transportation, petitioner has failed to carry her burden of proof. In an appeal to the Commissioner, petitioner has the burden of establishing the facts upon which he or she seeks relief (8 NYCRR �275.10; Appeal of Brown, et al. , 43 Ed Dept Rep __, Decision No. 14,980) and the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested (Appeal of Goldin, 43 Ed Dept Rep __, Decision No. 15,048).

A board of education may exercise its discretion when designating pick-up and drop-off points, provided that the board uses reasonable care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Raymond, 39 Ed Dept Rep 774, Decision No. 14,376; Appeal of Hobbs, 38 id. 203, Decision No. 14,015; Appeal of Kaufman, 36 id. 45, Decision No. 13,650). In establishing a pick-up point, a board of education must balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Hobbs, supra; Appeal of Marsh, 36 Ed Dept Rep 134, Decision No. 13,680; Appeal of Krauciunas, 35 id. 107, Decision No. 13,480). The law does not require a school district to provide transportation for the pupil directly to and from home (Ossant v. Millard, 72 Misc 2d 384) and boards of education have discretion to require students to walk to pick-up points from which transportation will be provided (Appeal of Marsh, supra; Appeal of Mechanick, et al., 33 id. 692, Decision No. 13,200). Where a student�s home is on a dangerous road or at a remote location, the parents are not free from the obligation to assist the student in reaching the pick-up point (Appeal of Warner, 37 Ed Dept Rep 469, Decision No. 13,907; Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, 37 id. 83, Decision No. 13,811; Appeal of Kaufman, supra). It is the responsibility of the parent, not the district, to see that the child safely reaches the pick-up point (Appeal of Warner, supra;Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, supra).

Respondent asserts that generally, the district does not provide students with door-to-door transportation and petitioner offers no proof to the contrary. Accordingly, petitioner has failed to establish any right to such service. Moreover, based on the record before me, I cannot conclude that respondent�s determination regarding the pick-up point was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Accordingly, I will not substitute my judgment for that of respondent.

In light of this disposition, I need not address the parties� remaining contentions.