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Decision No. 16,367

Appeal of CHRISTINE A. COOK, on behalf of her son RYAN, from action of the Board of Education of the Bellmore-Merrick Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 16,367

(June 29, 2012)

Ingerman Smith, L.L.P., attorneys for respondent, Noah Walker, Esq., of counsel

KING, JR., Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Board of Education of the Bellmore-Merrick Central School District (“respondent”) denying her request to change the transportation pick-up point for her son, Ryan.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner resides in the district on Liberty Avenue with Ryan, who attends Chaminade High School (“Chaminade”), a non-public school located outside the district.  For the past ten years, respondent has transported Ryan to Chaminade from a pick-up point at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Kampfe Place (“Liberty-Kampfe”).  Liberty-Kampfe is also the current bus stop for students attending four other schools, including Kellenberg Memorial High School (“Kellenberg”).

By letter dated August 25, 2011, the district’s transportation coordinator notified petitioner that the bus stop for Chaminade and Kellenberg would be moved to the intersection of Kampfe Place and Bellmore Road (“Kampfe-Bellmore”).  Kampfe Place runs only between Liberty Avenue and Bellmore Road; thus, the Kampfe-Bellmore bus stop is at the other end of Kampfe Place, the farthest point from Liberty-Kampfe.

By letter to the superintendent dated September 20, 2011, petitioner requested that Ryan’s bus stop be reinstated to Liberty-Kampfe.  By letter dated September 28, 2011, the deputy superintendent denied petitioner’s request, but informed her that Ryan’s bus stop would be relocated to mid-block on Kampfe, despite the fact that stops are normally at intersections, in order to accommodate both Ryan and another student attending Chaminade.  The letter stated that this change would commence October 3, 2011 for the 2011-2012 school year, and would require Ryan and the other student, who resides on Bellmore Road, to each walk approximately 0.14 miles to the stop, well below the 1.25-mile limit beyond which transportation is required for high school students under the district’s policy.

At respondent’s October 5, 2011 meeting, petitioner requested that the board reconsider her request and review the district’s response.  By letter dated October 7, 2011, respondent’s president upheld the determination to locate the bus stop equidistant from each Chaminade student’s residence.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner contends that the decision to locate the bus stop mid-block on Kampfe is unsafe, violates respondent’s bus policy to locate all bus stops at corners, and discriminates against Chaminade students.  She also contends that respondent is discriminating against her and Ryan because in the past it reinstated bus stops requested by other parents for their children attending other schools and also reinstated the Liberty-Kampfe stop for Kellenberg after a parental request.  She seeks reinstatement of the Liberty-Kampfe bus stop for Ryan and the Kampfe-Bellmore stop for the other Chaminade student.

Respondent asserts that petitioner has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.  It denies that the bus stop is unsafe and asserts that the decision to change the Liberty-Kampfe bus stop for Chaminade students was neither arbitrary, capricious nor unreasonable.

The Commissioner of Education will uphold a district’s transportation determination unless it is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable or an abuse of discretion (Appeal of Lippolt, 48 Ed Dept Rep 457, Decision No. 15,914; Appeal of A.P., 48 id. 380, Decision No. 15,891).  A board of education has broad discretion to determine how transportation is to be provided (Appeal of A.P., 48 Ed Dept Rep 380, Decision No. 15,891; Appeal of Brizell, 48 id. 128, Decision No. 15,814).  In making that determination, a board may balance considerations of safety, convenience, efficiency and cost (Appeal of A.P., 48 Ed Dept Rep 380, Decision No. 15,891; Appeal of Brizell, 48 id. 128, Decision No. 15,814).  Moreover, a board of education has both the responsibility and the authority to decide difficult questions in balancing the overall efficiency and economy of a transportation system against the convenience of individual students (Appeal of A.P., 48 Ed Dept Rep 380, Decision No. 15,891; Appeal of Brizell, 48 id. 128, Decision No. 15,814).

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 Brizell, 48 Ed Dept Rep 128, Decision No. 15,814; Appeal of Petrella, 48 id. 45, Decision No. 15,789).  In establishing a pick-up point, a board of education must balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Brizell, 48 Ed Dept Rep 128, Decision No. 15,814; Appeal of Petrella, 48 id. 45, Decision No. 15,789).  The law does not require a school district to provide transportation for the pupil directly to and from home (Education Law §3635[1][d]; 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 Girsdansky, 46 Ed Dept Rep 105, Decision No. 15,455).  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.  It is the responsibility of the parent, not the district, to see that the child safely reaches the pick-up point (Appeal of Brizell, 48 Ed Dept Rep 128, Decision No. 15,814; Appeal of Weinschenk, 47 id. 518, Decision No. 15,770).

In an appeal to the Commissioner, a petitioner has the burden of demonstrating a clear legal right to the relief requested and the burden of establishing the facts upon which petitioner seeks relief (8 NYCRR §275.10; Appeal of Aversa, 48 Ed Dept Rep 523, Decision No. 15,936; Appeal of Hansen, 48 id. 354, Decision No. 15,884; Appeal of P.M., 48 id. 348, Decision No. 15,882).

On the record before me, I cannot find that the district’s determination to locate the bus stop mid-block on Kampfe is unreasonable.  The record indicates that because a student residing on Bellmore Road also requested transportation to Chaminade for the 2011-2012 school year, the district decided to move the bus stop from Liberty-Kampfe to Kampfe-Bellmore.  However, upon petitioner’s request, the district twice reviewed the situation and determined to move the stop to a point equidistant from the two students’ residences for the current school year.  Since both students are in high school, the decision to have them each walk on 0.14 miles to a bus stop, which is well below the district’s 1.25-mile walker limit for that age group, appears to be a balanced compromise.  Moreover, since the district indicated that it was doing so specifically to accommodate petitioner, I find nothing discriminatory about the district’s actions.  Furthermore, the district asserts that it appropriately considered pupil safety, convenience, routing efficiency and costs in making its determination, and petitioner has presented no evidence contradicting the district’s consideration in those categories.  Although the district’s policy states that all bus stops will be at corners, this is a policy, not a legal requirement; therefore, nothing prohibits the district from deviating from its policy in certain circumstances upon reasonable considerations, such as those demonstrated here.  I also note that petitioner contends that the district treated her request unfairly because the Liberty-Kampfe bus stop was reinstated for a Kellenberg student after a parent request.  However, since the request related to a different school, I find such contention unavailing.  Accordingly, based on the record before me, I find that petitioner has failed to carry her burden of proof and that the district’s determination was reasonable and neither arbitrary nor capricious.