Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back to the Basics

By Peggy A. Burns

In the last 10 days, I’ve become aware of decisions and deliberations that have important implications. These newsworthy items provoked considerable thought on my part – I knew they were important...but were they important to school transportation professionals?

One, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Safford U.S.D. v. Redding, concerned a strip search of a then-13-year old girl who was suspected of possession of over-the-counter medication in violation of school district policy. A second, another U.S. Supreme Court opinion – this, in the case of Forest Grove School District v. TA – held that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act authorizes reimbursement for private special-education services when a public school fails to provide FAPE and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special-education services throught the public school. The third item was the testimony of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. concerning proposed legistation – the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 – that would, among other things, create a new Federal criminal hate crimes statute. The bill would strengthen and broaden Federal hate crimes legislation, to cover hate crimes committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Currently, such victims can recover money damages under a number of federal and state statutes, and state, local, and tribal criminal laws address widely such crimes.

These are important issues to be sure, and, as informed citizens, school transportation professionals should be aware of them. But, if you’re like me, the more issues that demand your attention – especially in ways that suggest, whether subtly or otherwise – that you should take steps to address them in your professional context – the more Maalox moments you have.

So, I want to challenge my colleagues to focus, still, on “the basics,” the situations which pose regular threats to student safety, which distract you from your other duties, and which compromise your already dwindling budgets. These are the situations that are reflected, day-in and day-out in the headlines and on court dockets: such issues as fighting among students on the school bus; student-to-student harassment and bullying; appropriate choice and use of equipment, services, and trained staff in the transportation of students with and without disabilities; recruiting, maintaining, assessing and training of a competent, productive and competent workforce; effective routing and scheduling. . .and it goes on, and on. My theme is that you need to know a lot, balance and juggle even more, and identify and take necessary measures in a whole host of concerns that demand your daily attention. Be aware of these highly significant and national issues, but don’t let them pose serious distractions for you – at least not until you’ve got all the others well under control.

Peggy Burns is an attorney/consultant with Education Compliance Group, Inc. Peggy can be reached at (888) 604-6141, and by email to ecginc@qwestoffice.net.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We want this to be an open forum for the hundreds of thousands of people that are involved in transporting special needs students each day. We want to hear what you think, what's going on at your facility and what solutions you've found. But, please, keep it civil. Just like on the bus, we'll have no tolerance for attacks or anything defamatory. We won't write you up, but we'll delete the comments right away. So don't bother. But if you have something to share, this is your place.

STN Editors