State probes Boston schools' transportation issues for disabled students

A Boston Public Schools bus traveling down Dorchester Avenue. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A Boston Public Schools bus traveling down Dorchester Avenue. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The state education department is investigating a complaint that claims the rights of children with disabilities in the Boston Public Schools are being violated because the district's bus system is in “disarray,” Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said Tuesday.

The complaint filed last week by Greater Boston Legal Services and Massachusetts Advocates for Children on behalf of the parents and guardians of six students with disabilities says children are being being denied an education because of chronically late or canceled buses.

“The systemic disarray of the BPS transportation and special education departments deprives thousands of Boston children, many of whom are low-income students with disabilities and students of color, of what cumulatively amounts to weeks or months of learning time,” the complaint said.

Riley confirmed the investigation at Tuesday's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education board meeting.

“We've been in touch with BPS regarding their transportation challenges, particularly as it relates to students with disabilities,” he said. “We have encouraged the district to work with families and advocates to resolve this issue.”

Under federal law, the department has 60 days to investigate and either issue a letter of finding or a letter of closure, he said.

Students with disabilities have the right to adequate transportation to and from school under federal and state law, the complaint said.

“Unfortunately, this fundamental entitlement of special education is being routinely violated by the district,” the complaint said.

Riley also noted that Boston’s schools are not meeting the standards of a state-implemented improvement plan to have 95% of buses arrive on time.

A voicemail seeking comment was left with a spokesperson for the Boston schools, the largest district in the state with about 46,000 students in 113 schools, according to state data.

Superintendent Mary Skipper told The Boston Globe the district is working to address the issues raised in the complaint.

“Some of these issues are technical and more straightforward to implement,” Skipper said. “Others will require cross-sector collaboration to resolve, and we have begun having those critical conversations in partnership with DESE.”


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