December 12, 2013

Mayor-elect Bill DeBlasio:

On behalf of New York City families whose children depend on safe, reliable school
transportation, we would like to share with the new administrators of our city our
collective determination to achieve:

(a) Policies and practices that respect the civil rights of pre-school and school age
students with disabilities and toddlers receiving early intervention (EI) services, whose
specialized transportation is an aspect of their Individualized Education Programs (IEP).
You have seen the recommendations of Attorney Norman Siegel (attached) in response to
complaints of violations. Organizations of parents, disabled self-advocates, unions of
school bus drivers and attendants, Early Intervention therapists and other educators are
well equipped to advise on implementing these suggestions or variations on them;

(b) A commitment that the approximately 1500 routes being abandoned by the owners of
Atlantic Express sometime between now and January continue to function, with the
current experienced workforce, at least through June. We must prevent any potential
disruption of school attendance for tens of thousands of NYC schoolchildren this
winter—even if the DOE budget has to be tapped to sustain fair wages and Employment
Protection Provisions. Our community cannot tolerate a repeat of the virtually useless
contingency plan your predecessors invoked with the 2013 school bus strike;

(c) A hearing and/or confidential surveys to gather data about the quality of training and
conditions at school bus companies, including those who were collectively awarded some
1100 special education routes in February 2013 and had to hire inexperienced people.
We need to hear from those who work or attempted to work at those companies, as well
as from families of riders, and school staff, well in advance of the next round of bid

(d) A commitment to reinstate EPP. We find it disturbing that the experienced
multicultural school bus workforce--60% women who have achieved some financial
empowerment over many years--are pushed towards poverty as the systematic
dismantling of seniority hiring proceeds. You have the legal power to withdraw awarded
routes without EPP for Summer 2014 and Fall 2014 and start over with ‘Request for
Proposal’ with EPP intact; likewise for the 4000 routes for Fall 2015 that are up for bid
next. Recent experience and common sense tell us that devaluing the school bus
professionals who enable our children’s educational access will increase turnover,
attrition, burnout, and risk of accidents and incidents.

We look forward to progress on all these fronts; we are available to meet as needed. !


Parents to Improve School Transportation,

(for Bronx PIST: Milagros Cancel, Rosa Maria de la Torre; for Harlem PIST: Journelle Clark,
Amy Herren; for Manhattan PIST: Sara Catalinotto, Johnnie Stevens; for Queens PIST: Sharlene
Figueroa, Susan Valdes-Dapena)

Carin van der Donk, school bus parent

Suzanne Peters, Board of Directors, Resources for Children with Special Needs*

Comite Timon de Madres de Educacion Especial, Rosa Lydia Velez class action chapter, Bronx

Ms. Nicole Job, President, Community Education Council 17,
Tiffany Caldwell ASD HORIZON PROGRAM* parent,
Valerie Williams, 2
Vice President, District 75 Council*

Norman Siegel, Civil Rights Attorney

Sandra Sanchez-Rolon, Military Women In Power, Ltd.

Queens: Sabretta Alford, school bus parent

Julia D'Amico, school bus parent

Beth Torin, school bus parent

Madeline Sinor, school bus parent

Loren Lockwood, school bus parent

Fatima Prioleau, school bus parent

Anita Parker, CEO, Treat Me Right, Inc.

Larry Littman, Chelsea Coalition on Housing

(List in formation; Organizations with * listed for identification purposes)

CC: Public Advocate-elect Letitia James
Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.
Brooklyn Borough President-elect Eric Adams
Manhattan Borough President-elect Gale Brewer
Queens Borough President-elect Melinda Katz
Staten Island Borough President-elect James Oddo

Attachment follows!
260 Madison Avenue - 22
New York, New York 10016

(212) 455-0300

(212) 455-0301

Novembei 26, 2u1S

Nayoi Nichael R. Bloombeig
City Ball
New Yoik, NY 1uuu7

Bennis N. Walcott
Chancelloi, New Yoik City Bepaitment of Euucation
S2 Chambeis Stieet
New Yoik, NY 1uuu7

Beai Nayoi Bloombeig anu Chancelloi Walcott,
In August, 2u1S oui fiim was contacteu by a coalition of paients who iely on the
Bepaitment of Euucation's 0ffice of Pupil Tianspoitation (0PT) to tianspoit theii
special neeus chiluien to anu fiom school. 0PT is iequiieu to pioviue auequately
foi theii tianspoitation unuei the Inuiviuuals with Bisabilities Act (IBEA), but these
paients iepoiteu that seiious systemic anu inuiviuual pioblems with the bus seivice
pioviueu by 0PT weie having an auveise affect on theii chiluien.
Repoits fiom the stait of the 2u1S-14 school yeai incluue fiequent violations of
allowable tiavel time anu Inuiviuualizeu Euucation Plans (IEP), unannounceu anu
fiequent ioute changes, last minute cancellations anu late pickups, excessive waiting
time on buses, inauequate tiaining of uiiveis anu mations, impiopei oi inauequate
oveisight of chiluien, communication bieakuowns between 0PT anu the bus
companies, anu pooi communication with paients.
These inciuents ieflect a failuie by 0PT anu the Bepaitment of Euucation to uelivei
seivices that meet theii own stanuaius anu legal obligations. Chiluien have suffeieu
physically anu emotionally, anu this has ueeply uistuibeu paients who aie alieauy
unuei stiess caiing foi theii vulneiable chiluien anu seeking to fostei theii
euucation anu socialization.
Since the stait of the school yeai oui fiim, woiking togethei with Paients to
Impiove School Tianspoitation (PIST) anu inuiviuual paients, has met with 0PT
staff membeis anu wiitten letteis uetailing specific pioblems to Ni. Eiic uolustein,
CE0 of the 0ffice of School Suppoit Seivices at the Bepaitment of Euucation. This
joint effoit not only hasteneu the iesolution of most paiental conceins, but ievealeu
the neeu foi an inuepenuent auvocate to woik with 0PT on behalf of paients anu
Accoiuing to many paients, the busing pioblems uocumenteu at the stait of this
school yeai iecui annually. In oiuei foi 0PT to change this pattein, quickly solve
pioblems as they aiise, anu limit the haim to chiluien, we iecommenu the
appointment of an inuepenuent liaison to woik with the families anu 0PT. This yeai
two people, woiking pait time in oui office on behalf of almost foity families, helpeu
to quickly iesolve a wiue iange of pioblems while pioviuing paients with a much-
neeueu inuepenuent auvocate.
At the stait of each school yeai, paients anu chiluien aie seveiely impacteu by a
wiue iange of pioblems with bus iouting anu staffing. These incluue:
1. Transportation for special needs children requires that buses have adequate air
conditioning and heating, and be staffed by drivers and matrons who know their
routes and the needs of the children they serve. However, buses frequently lack
adequate air conditioning, causing children to arrive at school or home
dangerously dehydrated. And because of the OPT contracting process, the bus
companies, drivers, matrons, and routes change from year to year. Each fall new
drivers learn their routes while school is in session, leading to weeks or months of
significant lateness in the morning and afternoon. Matrons are similarly
unfamiliar with the children in their care. Some lack the training and experience
required to assist special needs children properly, who often cannot adequately
communicate their needs or their fears. To function effectively in school, at
home, and in various therapeutic activities after school, it is critical that the
children have a stable routine, and familiarity with those who assist them.
Lateness and other schedule disruptions whose cause they cannot fully
comprehend, and being entrusted to strangers who do not know them or
understand their needs, make the beginning of each school year a fearful ordeal.

Among many dlsLurblng reporLs we recelved aL Lhe sLarL of Lhe 2013 school year!
bus drlvers operaLed Lhelr vehlcles ln an unsafe manner, maLrons were
overheard by parenLs uslng abuslve language Lowards Lhe chlldren, younger
speclal needs chlldren were sub[ecLed Lo abuslve language by older chlldren on
Lhe bus, one parenL observed a maLron lmproperly buckllng her chlld's
wheelchalr lnLo poslLlon, poslng a serlous safeLy LhreaL, and ln anoLher lnsLance,
a maLron lncorrecLly lnslsLed LhaL a chlld on her bus be dropped off aL Lhe wrong
home address, desplLe belng Lold by Lhe doorman LhaL Lhe chlld dld noL llve
Lhere, Lo make maLLers worse, Lhe chlld's parenL was noL noLlfled and spenL
franLlc hours Lrylng Lo locaLe her chlld.

Some problems orlglnaLe wlLh Lhe managemenL of Lhe bus companles. Chlldren
on one rouLe were sub[ecLed Lo unusually long Lrlps Lo and from school LhaL
vlolaLed Lhelr lLÞ and LhaL caused Lhem Lo mlss hours of schoollng each day,
slmply because Lhe bus company had lmproperly lnsLrucLed lLs drlvers Lo avold
Lhe MldLown 1unnel ln order Lo save on Loll cosLs. When we and Lhe parenLs
broughL Lhls maLLer Lo Lhe aLLenLlon of CÞ1, Lhe company was reprlmanded and
ordered Lo Lake Lhe 1unnel, buL lL was Loo laLe Lo remedy a more Lhan a week's
worLh of mlssed school and long, hoL days ln Lrafflc.

2. We received many complaints about the excessive number of children assigned to
a bus route and overcrowding on busses. When too many children are assigned to
one bus route, problems result: travel times violate their IEP, they are chronically
picked up late, arrive late to school, are delayed coming home, and often arrive in
a debilitated condition that impairs their capacity to learn or to participate in
therapy. Similarly, when buses are over-crowded the drivers and matrons cannot
attend to the children in their care adequately, often fail to communicate with
parents as required when a child will be picked up or delivered home late. More
than a month of disruption, worry, suffering, and lost learning resulted from such
overcrowding and over-scheduling of routes. It required hundreds of phone calls
and emails by parents, and a series of letters from our office detailing the
problems, before OPT adjusted the schedules, redesigned routes, and assigned
additional buses.
3. Related but not exclusive to the problem of overcrowding is the excessive waiting
time that children experience on the bus before and after school. Many bus routes
deliver and pick up children at two schools. Problems arise when the schools
have different opening and closing hours. Although a child may have been picked
up at home on time, he/she is delivered to school late because other children on
the bus are being dropped off first at a school whose opening hour is later than
their own. The delay causes them to arrive at their own school after classes have
begun. The problem occurs again at the end of the school day: some children
must wait on the bus, often in hot or cold conditions, for others whose dismissal
time is later than that of their own school.
Cnce agaln, afLer some weeks of efforL, CÞ1 addressed Lhese problems by
addlng more rouLes, and asslgnlng one bus per rouLe, per school. uesplLe Lhe
facL LhaL slmllar and predlcLable problems arlse each year, parenLs and chlldren
were sub[ecLed Lo conslderable hardshlps before soluLlons were found.
4. 8ecause Lravel and walL Llmes are long, even a chlld who has planned ahead and
addressed Lhelr needs prlor Lo boardlng Lhe bus wlll occaslonally requlre a
resLroom en rouLe. CÞ1 should work wlLh Lhe famllles, schools, and bus
companles Lo creaLe a proLocol Lo address Lhls need.
Lnclosed ls a sample of 38 cases ln whlch we represenLed parenLs and chlldren whose
concerns were resolved by CÞ1. ln connecLlon wlLh LhaL efforL we wanL Lo menLlon Lhe
work of Lwo CÞ1 sLaff, 8lchle Scarpa and !on-Lrlk Arenas, whose efforLs Lo resolve
problems meL wlLh parenLal approval.

ln llghL of Lhe efforL made by Lhe parenLs, Mellssa 8usso of Wn8C -1v, our offlce, and
CÞ1, we belleve LhaL mosL lssues of Lhe klnd ouLllned above could be avolded Lhrough a
serles of reforms. We recommend LhaL:

1. SLandards for drlvers and maLrons should be sLrengLhened, and LhaL all bus
employees who work wlLh speclal needs chlldren be properly Lralned and cerLlfled,
2. 1he bus conLracLlng process should be reformed Lo ensure LhaL Lhe companles and
Lhelr employees are able Lo meeL Lhelr obllgaLlons before Lhe sLarL of Lhe school year,
3. CÞ1 musL slgnlflcanLly lmprove lLs rouLe plannlng and schedullng, and beLLer
anLlclpaLe Lhe recurrlng need for more buses and more rouLes Lo serve Lhe chlldren ln
lLs care adequaLely,
4. 8ecause problems wlll always arlse, an lndependenL llalson/advocaLe should be
auLhorlzed Lo work wlLh CÞ1, parenLs, and school sLaff Lo anLlclpaLe and resolve lssues
as Lhey arlse.

1he documenLed hardshlps lmposed on parenLs and chlldren for almosL Lwo monLhs aL
Lhe sLarL of Lhe 2013-14 school year are noL lnevlLable. lf our recommendaLlons are
followed, all sLudenLs, especlally Lhose mosL ln need, are far more llkely Lo arrlve aL
school and home safe, happy and ready Lo learn.


s¡Noiman Siegel
Noiman Siegel
Cal Snyuei
}onathan Langei

cc: Nayoi-elect Bill BeBlasio
Public Auvocate-elect Letitia }ames
Contiollei-elect Scott Stiingei
Bionx Boiough Piesiuent Ruben Biaz, }i.
Biooklyn Boiough Piesiuent-elect Eiic Auams
Nanhattan Boiough Piesiuent-elect uale Biewei
Queens Boiough Piesiuent-elect Nelinua Katz
Staten Islanu Boiough Piesiuent-elect }ames 0uuo

Eiic uolustein

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful