Students Entitled to Bus Service at Both Parents' Homes
The Commonwealth Court has ruled in a case of first impression that a school district is required under Pennsylvania's Public School Code to provide a student whose parents are divorced or separated with bus transportation to and from separate stops near each parent's home, even if they're both located in the same district.
A three-judge panel in Watts v. Manheim Township School District upheld a Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas judge's ruling issuing a permanent injunction against Manheim Township School District and directing it to resume bus transportation for a student to and from both his mother's and father's homes.
While the school district had argued that it had no obligation to provide bus transportation to two residences within the same district, the court, led by Judge Robert Simpson, disagreed.
According to Simpson, "A school district cannot fulfill its transportation obligation by merely designating one parent's residence as the sole bus stop without any consideration of the child's other residence. To conclude otherwise would deprive the child of free transportation during alternate periods of custody."
Simpson was joined by Judge Anne E. Covey and Senior Judge James Gardner Colins.
In Watts, according to Simpson, plaintiff Timothy L. Watts and his ex-wife live in separate residences within Manheim Township School District and share equal custody of their son, C.W., who is in middle school.
Under their custody agreement, C.W. spends alternating weeks with each parent, Simpson said.
For the 2012-13 school year, the school district began refusing, as a cost-cutting measure, to continue providing students with transportation to and from multiple locations, according to Simpson.
While the district continued providing transportation for C.W. to and from his mother's home, it stopped providing transportation to and from Watts' residence, Simpson said.
Because Watts' job prevented him from driving his son to school and his ex-wife's home is about two miles away from his residence, Watts was forced to hire someone to take C.W. to school during the weeks he had custody, according to Simpson.