Shortening School Day for Students Using Accessible Bus, Not Providing Accessible Parking or Playground Violated 504

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     In an Office for Civil Rights (OCR) decision, Sierra Vista (AZ) Unified School District, 54 IDELR 35 (OCR, July 10, 2009) OCR found a violation of 504 when students who used an accessible school bus, arrived at school 10 minutes late in the morning and had to leave class early in the afternoon to use the bus. The parents of a student who used a wheelchair had filed a complaint because of the shortened school day. 

     The Office for Civil Rights noted that it is permissible for a student with a disability to receive a shortened school day if that is what is determined to be appropriate to meet the student’s needs.  But, here the students arrived late because there were not enough accessible buses to ensure that all the students who needed one were able to make it to school on time.  In the afternoon, it was essentially for administrative convenience.

     Moreover, OCR found that the designated accessible parking lot spaces and route of travel were not accessible. OCR also found that the playground was not accessible because none of the equipment was accessible, the loose play surfaces (sand and gravel) were a barrier for students with mobility impairments, and the drinking fountains were not accessible. 

   To resolve the complaint, the school district agreed to fix the accessibility violations, ensure the students would not have a shortened day, and  to hold multi-disciplinary team meetings to determine if any of the students required compensatory services as a result of the shortened days.