School Bus Transportation

Parents who share custody equally and live in the same school district are entitled to have their children bused to both homes as a result of a central Pennsylvania father’s appeal to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court this year.

In the case appealed, the parents lived in separate residences in the same school district, sharing custody of a middle-school-age child on an alternating weekly schedule. As a cost-cutting measure, the school district stopped providing students with bus transportation to multiple locations and designated the child’s bus stop as the one at his mother’s home. The school district’s decision forced the father to hire a caregiver to drive the child to school because the father’s work schedule prevented him from driving the child himself.

The court noted that there was a regular bus route through the father’s neighborhood, with a bus stop the child had previously used. The court also noted that the Pennsylvania School Code requires that when school districts elect to provide free bus transportation, they must do so for all ‘resident’ students. The School Code further requires that no student shall travel more than a mile and a half to the bus stop. Observing that resident students cannot demand ‘door to door’ transportation, the court found that the mother’s home was more than a mile and a half from the father’s home and that the district could not rely on the mother’s bus stop during the father’s periods of physical custody of the child. Emphasizing that the child qualified as a “resident’ student at each of his parents’ homes, the court ordered the district to resume busing to and from both homes.

Throughout the opinion, the court referred to the custody arrangement as “equal” and “equally shared.” The court also recognized that school districts have very broad discretion in how they manage their transportation systems. It is not clear what rights parents may have to bus transportation from both homes when custody is not equally shared. But the court’s firm recognition that a child is a resident of a school district, whether or not his or her home is a “primary’ residence, leaves room for parents with split, but not equal, custody to seek busing to both homes.

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