In a March 1 article, The Boston Herald reported on an investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that determined Boston Public Schools had violated students’ rights to special education services. Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Advocates for Children filed a joint complaint about the issue on behalf of several families last year. An excerpt of the article is below.
In a letter sent to Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper on Friday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said an investigation found the district’s transportation issues violated students’ rights to special education services.
“The findings in the preceding sections of this letter indicate that the District did comply with some of its obligations under federal and state requirements,” DESE officials wrote in the letter.
Several families issued a joint complaint with Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Advocates for Children in October, outlining incidents in which the district failed to provide students with one-on-one and specially trained bus monitors, families notification of transportation issues, or just any transportation at all — in effect denying the students their right to a free appropriate public education.
In many of these incidents, “students’ families are required to (provide transportation), causing financial and other burdens,” the letter states, and systemic failures have “deprived many students of their education due to ongoing absences and late arrivals resulting from lack of or delayed transportation.”
The state reviewed parent reports of bus issues in the last year, finding 3,469 coded “Missed Stop,” 775 “Late Bus,” 736 “Stranded Student,” 721 “Bus Monitor,” 597 “Other,” and 236 “Blown Route” or “Uncovered Route.”
In the fall of the 2022-23 school year, an average of 16.4% of buses were still dropping off students late or not at all, the letter states.
These wide-scale issues had an especial impact on students with disabilities, the investigation found, including the “key deficiency” of bus monitors.
“The District reported that approximately 35–40% of monitor-required routes have not had a designated monitor assigned to the route during the 2022-2023 school year,” the letter reads.