SACRAMENTO, Calif. — School transportation officials across the state gathered here last week to discuss a variety of topics, including strategies to support special-needs transportation.
One of the sessions for the California Association of School Transportation Officials (CASTO) annual conference, held Feb. 22 to 24, covered the importance of establishing supportive relationships for special-needs transporters.
Ilah Feeney, a program administrator for the Solano County Office of Education, detailed the value of creating more collaborative relationships among a district's transportation and special-education departments, parents, teachers, and school site staff.
As a former special-education teacher of 33 years, “I knew I had to build relationships with [bus drivers] and communicate with them because having a lack of student information can be a challenge," Feeney told attendees.
When dealing with everyone’s expectations for school transportation, she encouraged attendees to advocate for more collaborative meetings — in addition to those arranged for a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
“Do you see teachers when picking up students? Do you feel support from those teachers? Are you having issues with school site staff?” she asked the audience. “These are the types of questions you should be asking.”
For bus drivers and aides working in larger districts, Feeney recommended that they present any concerns they have to the transportation director first, before communicating with related staff members or parents. She also stressed the need for confidentiality when discussing student information and having consistent documentation in writing of any incidents that may take place on or off the school bus.
"Confidentiality is one of the biggest isues for families," Feeney said. “If you’re in a crisis situation, you have to document exactly what happens. Video [from a camera on the bus] can capture the situation, but you still need to be able to distribute the facts — describe what you saw and what you did, especially in cases where you may have had to restrain a student.”
To further avoid behavioral and/or medical issues on the bus, one attendee mentioned that her district implemented a “ready to ride” practice to ensure when and if it is safe for a student to get on the school bus.
For example, if a student who is epileptic, experienced a seizure right before getting on the bus after school, the bus driver may report to the teacher and/or school site staff that it’s unsafe to transport the student at that time. In that case, the attendee added, the transportation department will send another bus to pick up the student once they are considered “ready to ride.”
Other support strategies that were discussed during the session included giving drivers and aides more access to training, such as non-violent crisis intervention training and behavior intervention plan training; having teachers create visual supports for students to communicate on the bus; and providing fidget spinners or other reinforcers for students who may get restless on long bus rides.