Where a child will attend school is often a hotly contested issue in a custody case, however, school transportation can easily be an after-thought. After the dust clears on the custody trial, the parents simply look to the school district to bus their child to and from school; Mom’s house one day and Dad’s house another day. If the child is in private school, usually transportation arrangements are made by the parents. There is little to no consideration as to whether the School District has to accommodate multiple bus stops or what contingencies need to be in place if the School District refuses to make that accommodation.
Based on a recent Commonwealth Court case, however, it looks like this issue is resolved for the time being. On January 7, 2014, the Court ruled in the Watts case that a child can have more than one residence and, therefore, more than one bus stop.
The impact on the School District can be significant and, as outlined in an Alert written by Kyle Berman in our Blue Bell office, the Watt decision along with the 2012 decision in Wyland, establish that divorced or separated parents are entitled to have their children bused to both their houses. The facts in the Watts case are such that both parents are in the school district.
A less certain answer is whether the School District has to provide transportation to a bus stop outside the school district. While the Wyland case provides that service, it may not be as certain if the child was attending school in the non-primary custodial parent’s district. Certainly a Court Order will be needed for the School District to recognize child should receive transportation services. Whether the district where the child resides or the district where the child attends school is responsible appears to be an open question and has not been conclusively decided in the Commonwealth Court.