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In late July, an administrative law judge found that a New Jersey board of education provided a free appropriate public education to a special education student by offering transportation services between school and the student’s home, even where the district had previously provided transportation to alternate drop-off/pick-up locations (in this case, a daycare center) as a courtesy. The student’s individualized education program did not include participation in the daycare program, and therefore transportation to the daycare was not required.

By way of background, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the district in this matter had provided transportation to alternate drop-off/pick-up locations other than a student’s home, including at daycare sites. However, in 2021, the district notified parents that it would only provide transportation to/from a student’s home due to logistical issues. Additionally, as further background to the issues discussed in the case, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., transportation is included in the list of  “related services” that “may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education . . . .” Similar provisions exist under state law.

In the case, a 5-year-old student was classified as preschool disabled for the 2021-2022 school year, which entitled him to special education and related services. The student received an IEP  that placed him in the half-day general education preschool program. Transportation was included in the IEP as a related service. The student attended daycare before and after school. At the end of the school year, the student was reevaluated and a new IEP was created. The new IEP did not include transportation as a related service.

The student’s parent, the petitioner in this case, requested the student to be picked up and dropped off from a daycare center instead of from home, and contended that the student would have made less progress absent the daycare program. The student’s parent filed a petition claiming that the board of education failed to provide a FAPE because it did not provide transportation for the student to and from a day care center. The district disagreed that a different pick-up/drop-off point should be accommodated. The district’s policy did not provide for alternative pick-up/drop-off points.

The administrative law judge agreed with the district and found that the IEP only called for transportation that is in accordance with the district policy, which after 2021 did not allow pick- up/drop-off locations other than the home. The ALJ concluded that the student obtained a meaningful benefit from the IEP’s education services without transportation to and from the daycare center. The assertion that the student would have not made as much progress without the daycare program was not supported. The administrative law judge’s decision found that while “parental convenience is understandable,” it was “not a legal basis to require the district” to provide transportation to and from daycare centers.

For more information about the decision in this article, board members should consult with their board attorney or call the NJSBA Legal and Labor Relations Department at 609-278-5279.