Schools Eye Ruling On Buses

Parent Appeals Policy On Number Of Stops

April 24, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

BALTIMORE — Eldersburg parent Susan Ballas' appeal of a Carroll bus stop policy to the state Board of Education has raised eyebrows among some area school transportation officials.

"If the state board is going to change the minds of Carroll (officials), it will give parents some precedent here," said Rita Fromm, director of transportation for Baltimore County schools, which move about 54,000 students daily.

Like other districts, Carroll's pupil transportation policy allows one morning and one afternoon bus stop. Exceptions are made for emergencies or parents with consistent work schedules and who need day care elsewhere for their children.

"(The policy) is absolutely because of safety and trying to eliminate the possibility of losing a child, which has happened in the past," said Fromm, noting Baltimore County's policy is the same as Carroll's.

Ballas, a nurse whose work schedule changes weekly, was unsuccessful in her bid to get the Carroll board to grant a waiver so her third-grade daughter could get off at a different bus stop, one mile from their home, two days a week.

The state board allowed Ballas to argue her case yesterday. Schoolsattorney Rochelle S. Eisenberg asked the state to uphold the Carrollboard, which is responsible for transporting 20,000 students daily.

Peter B. McDowell, Carroll's director of secondary schools, and James Doolan, director of transportation, attended the 30-minute appealbut did not provide testimony.

The state board could make a decision on the appeal as early as today or after its next series of meetings in mid-May.

Dorothy D. Mangle, Carroll's director of elementary schools, said she doesn't expect the board to overrule the county.

Glenn Johnson, director of school transportation in Howard County,said he was aware of the case but also doesn't believe the state board will overturn the local decision.

"(This policy) gives us a degree of accountability," Johnson said, noting Howard, which transports26,000 students daily, has a similar policy.

Assistant State Attorney General Valerie V. Cloutier, principal counsel to the state board, said the wording of the ruling will determine if the decision affects other districts.

"If the policy is upheld, but the board rulesCarroll acted arbitrarily in Ballas' cases, it wouldn't affect others," she said. "If the board reverses Carroll's decision without reason, that would cause more of a problem."

Carroll educators have said too many parents abused the former policy and continual changes in bus stops were causing extra worry and headaches for principals, teachers and bus drivers.

Eisenberg said the board's decision to deny Ballas a waiver was legal, "not arbitrary and not unreasonable." She noted there had been no violation of the parent's due-process rights.

"The board is not willing to extend changes for parents with inconsistent schedules," she said. "If it did, it would be back to squareone."

However, Ballas said her daughter was allowed to get off atanother stop for three years before the district revised its policy.She said her daughter, who attends Freedom Elementary, never had a problem changing stops.

"I think what I'm asking for is reasonable," Ballas said. "I tried working with the Board of Education, but theywere unwilling to compromise in any way."

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