Sharing student information under IDEA
Students with autism and other disabilities often require a structured environment and routine in order to feel safe and comfortable.
As a bus driver, “you need to establish your behavior plan with them early on — being fair, firm and consistent with them. And your relationship with the school is critical so that you can ask for information on the behavior intervention plan [that pertains to the student] in the classroom,” explains Dona Beauchea, special-needs operational safety and training manager for First Student.
It is easy for school officials to become confused about what information they can share about the student under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Beauchea says, but the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows for relevant information to be provided to support staff.
This includes school bus drivers and attendants, Beauchea explains.
Transportation staff should be invited to take part in the development of a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). In that role, the transporter could serve two major functions:
1. To gather information regarding the student’s expected transportation needs so as to properly plan for a timely, efficient and safe initiation of transportation service.
2. To educate the IEP team members regarding the transportation environment. This could include: type and configuration of the vehicle the student would likely be assigned to ride, probable length of ride, conditions with respect to temperature extremes during loading/unloading and on the bus, pickup/drop off, type of device/occupant securement system to be used, need for the vehicle to be equipped with an emergency communication system, degree of training and skills of the driver, need for a bus attendant, etc.
If the student will need special care or intervention during transportation (or has adaptive or assistive equipment needs), transportation staff participation is essential in developing information addressing the following concerns:
1. Can the student be safely transported, given the transportation environment (including the length of the ride), without undue risk to the student or others?
2. Does the student have medical, physical or behavioral concerns that would expose the student to unreasonable risk, given the anticipated transportation environment?
3. Can assistive or adaptive equipment identified as necessary to accommodate the student during the transportation process be safely secured and transported, and are there adequate instructions regarding its use?
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