School Bus Safety and the Role of the Individualized Education Program (IEP)

The school bus plays an essential role in the everyday lives of families across the nation, particularly for families with children receiving special education and related services. Most children with disabilities ride the same school bus as their non-disabled peers. They often require little or no special assistance. However, some children with disabilities require very specific planning in order to receive a safe ride to school.

The entitlement for children with disabilities to receive free and appropriate transportation service is firmly established in two federal laws: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (more commonly known as Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If you have been told that your child requires the related service transportation or you believe that your child needs specialized transportation, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process is the appropriate means for discussing your child’s specific transportation needs.  IDEA requires that transportation needs be addressed on a case-by-case basis when your child requires services different from children without disabilities.

It is crucial that IEP team members, including yourself, provide input about how your child’s disability impacts riding the school bus safely. The IEP team meeting and the IEP document should address accommodations and supplementary aids and services required to assure safe and appropriate transportation services.

Here are  five tips families can follow to increase a child’s school bus safety:

  1. Be familiar with school district’s school bus policies and procedures for students with disabilities.
  2. Utilize the IEP process to address transportation if individualized services are necessary. Be sure to ask questions about the specific training received by the bus driver and attendant to meet your child’s needs.
  3. Provide relevant information about the impact of your child’s disability on the school bus ride.
  4. The most dangerous part of the school bus ride is getting on and off the school bus.  This is referred to as “The Danger Zone.” The “Danger Zone” is the ten (10) feet in front, behind and on each side of the school bus.  Make sure that your child receives appropriate supervision at all times while in the “Danger Zone.”
  5. Have readily available contact numbers of those individuals responsible for the transportation of your child.

It is reassuring to know that the school bus is recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as the safest form of travel to and from school. Parents of children with disabilities are essential partners in ensuring that their child’s school bus ride is a safe ride. Parents also help to ensure that the ride is a positive experience prior to arriving at school and after leaving school. Remember, the school bus ride provides the very first step to a meaningful education for many of our nations children.


Dr. Linda Bluth has 48 years of experience as a special educator, including 33 years in special needs transportation. Her past experience includes work at the United States Department of Education (USDE) and as a University Professor; School System Administrator; and Policy Specialist in the Maryland Governor’s Office for Children Youth and Families. She is a past-president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT). Dr. Bluth currently works at the Maryland State Department of Education as a Special Initiatives Program Specialist.

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