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It’s Time to Get Buses for Handicapped Students

It has been three weeks since handicapped students were first stranded without adequate bus transportation, and still the bus shortage continues. And, as county Department of Education officials acknowledge, no immediate solution is in sight.

While everyone points the finger of blame at someone else, about 10% of the bus routes still remain without service. And although some students are using private transportation, others haven’t been able to get to school at all. The situation is shameful, not only because so many handicapped students have had trouble getting to class, but because county Department of Education officials have allowed the situation to drag on so long.

At its meeting last Thursday, some trustees of the Orange County Board of Education criticized Robert D. Peterson, the elected county superintendent of schools who is responsible for operating the county Department of Education, for his failure to resolve the problem. Peterson blames the continuing bus shortage on the bus contractor, Durham Transportation, who blames a lack of adequate pay in the existing county contract for its failure to find enough drivers.

Although an agreement was supposedly reached, the bus shortage continues. One suggestion Peterson made to resolve it was to have parents put pressure on the contractor.

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It is Peterson’s legal responsibility, however, to see that adequate bus transportation is provided. It is Peterson who should be applying whatever “pressure” is in order and taking decisive action to arrange for safe and dependable transportation instead of trying to shift blame and prompt the parents to do his job.

Civil rights complaints have been filed with the federal Office of Civil Rights and the state Department of Education against the county department for its failure to provide bus transportation for about 800 handicapped students in the county. The failure continues--but there still has been no state or federal intervention. It is time that someone took command and got all the buses rolling again.


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