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Miami-Dade County Realizes the Benefits of Specialized Transportation

Sometimes a little one-on-one attention

can do wonders for a situation. When Susan Detmold-Collins, routing director for Mi- ami-Dade County Public Schools, learned that a special needs student was having is- sues with her behavior on the school bus, she immediately began a process to better the situation for everyone involved, includ- ing, most importantly, the student. “Tere was something about the bus

that just set her off,” recalled Detmold- Collins. Te student would respond by hitting, spitting, biting and physically at- tacking the onboard aide and bus driver. After making some attempts to resolve

the issue and holding a staff meeting to brainstorm new ideas, Detmold-Collins decided to look into some form of con- tracted specialized transportation. At the same time, the student’s parent advocate was in court requesting a more suitable

form of transportation. Te decision was made to contract the service to Ameri- can Logistics Company (ALC), which met two important requirements concern- ing liability insurance. ALC also complied with Florida’s Jessica Lunsford Act, which requires any individual who has one-on- one contact with a child must first be fingerprinted and undergo a national background check. “Tey were also able to meet our time

frame in terms of when we needed to get everything in place,” said Detmold-Collins. Before the first ride with the specialized

transporter, Detmold-Collins met with the new driver and the aide to make sure they had all the information they needed, including information from that student’s IEP that was related to transportation. Det- mold-Collins also personally spoke with one of the company’s vice presidents to

discuss the student’s behavioral issues and to explain why the district had chosen to seek another other form of transportation. “I made sure the company was totally

in the loop and had a good picture of the challenges that the student was going to present. Te problem was so severe that it resulted in a whole team coming together to try and find a solution,” she added, ex- plaining that this is not always the case when it comes to IEPs and collaborating with transportation departments. “It can be a battle sometimes.” Since the student began riding with the

company, there had been no further is- sues during rides to and from school. “Te little girl’s guardian also contact-

ed the department to tell them that her in-school behavior and scholastic perfor- mance has improved significantly as well,” said Detmold-Collins. ■

Report Gives Insight Into U.K. Special Needs Transportation Issues Due in part to rising costs, the Welsh Local Government As-

sociation published a report last fall on how school districts can better manage transportation for their special needs students. For some Welsh students “transport costs more than their

education each year,” while those costs have risen more than three times the rate of inflation. But some simple changes could significantly lower costs. Te report gives three key principles or focuses that must be understood: ability not disability; safety and reasonable comfort; and cost effectiveness. Te report emphasizes the need to allow special needs students

to travel on general education buses whenever possible, which can help support their independence. Training, as well as proper equip- ment and vehicles, also helps assure the students make it to and from school safely and comfortably. Transporters must also keep a close eye on the “what, why, where and when” of expenditures. A key area of confusion lies in who is responsible for special

needs transportation. Te report found that services are often split between different departments and staff within local au- thorities, which causes confusion for both parents and schools. Typically, school transportation is split between children’s services departments and transportation teams within a local authority. Tere is also the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice that details the assessment process, service reviews and what

24 School Transportation News Magazine February 2011

formats must be adhered to. Schools also have a special edu- cational needs coordinator to ensure everything follows the code of practice. When determining transportation needs, local authorities

must first review whether the student lives within the allotted walking distance. And, according to the report, this general crite- ria is used for all pupils. “Clearly the suitability of a walking route may be different for a child with special needs and the transport provided may need to be specialised, but the entitlement criteria should not be any different,” read the report. When a child is identified as a student with special needs, an

assessment process begins that includes input from parents and medical and social workers, with a focus on what the child can do, “rather than assuming what s/he is not able to do.” In these instances, the report stresses that transportation staff must be ready to challenge special needs requests for individual trans- port, home pick-ups, escorts or placement away from a home school, which can significantly increase costs. “Unless there is clear justification for these, they should not be provided; and if provided reviewed regularly,” states the report. ■

Editor’s note: To download the full Welsh Local Government Association report, visit

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