Kathryn PerricoThe Ohio Board of Education recently adopted changes to rules for students who ride in school transportation vehicles (O.A.C. 3301-83-08) and established clearer policies for bus drivers (O.A.C. 3301-83-13). These changes will go into effect for the 2019-2020 school year, so districts and their transportation departments are required to work collaboratively to ensure they are compliant.

O.A.C. 3301-83-08, which was a tobacco ban, has been expanded to include nicotine products. Vape pens are considered a nicotine product, even though the “e-juice” inside may be tobacco and nicotine free. Additionally, the 16 policies and procedures that used to be required under O.A.C. 3301-83-08 are now listed as “best practice recommendations.” This puts more responsibility on districts to have administrators and transportation personnel work together to develop the policies of transporting students within the district.

O.A.C. 3301-83-13 now affirmatively states that school bus stop locations must be in safe locations. This addition could be problematic for districts if a student is hurt while waiting for the school transportation vehicle. Any complaint arising from a student injury at a bus stop will almost certainly delve into whether the administrators/transportation personnel looked at known or implied dangers before selecting a pick-up/drop-off location.

Additionally, O.A.C. 3301-83-13 now requires that a driver wait for students if they are ahead of schedule. This means that even though students are supposed to be at the stop ahead of time, the driver must wait until the established departure time. No longer can a driver leave early with the excuse that the students weren’t where they should have been.

Districts should consult with legal counsel if they have issues implementing these changes.

Kathy Perrico is a partner at Walter | Haverfield who focuses her practice on education law. She can be reached at kperrico@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2948.

 John Moenk is a law clerk with the Education Law group at Walter | Haverfield. He can be reached at jmoenk@walterhav.com or at 216-619-7884.