54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2019


Natalie Figueroa and Bill Tallman









     WHEREAS, the safety of public school students is of the utmost importance; and

     WHEREAS, there are many dangers for students, particularly special needs students, in everyday circumstances, such as riding a school bus; and

     WHEREAS, students with special needs may have physical, mental or behavioral conditions that may require adult supervision or intervention; and

     WHEREAS, school bus drivers and bus attendants function as direct service providers with hands-on responsibility to operate special equipment, manage student behavior, administer health care insofar as they are qualified and serve as seating specialists in positioning and securing adaptive and assistive devices and occupants; and

     WHEREAS, there is no uniform approach to meeting the transportation needs of students with special needs across New Mexico's school districts and charter schools; and

     WHEREAS, from written emergency evacuation plans and live drills for all students riding on school buses to having buses with special equipment such as wheelchair locks, appropriate oxygen storage, special seating and occupant restraints and emergency medical kits, there are several safety measures that must be considered when transporting special needs students; and

     WHEREAS, many school bus operators face challenges when transporting special needs students, including being the sole adult on the bus, a lack of meaningful professional development regarding transporting special needs students or the concern that a single operator does not represent an adequately staffed school bus;

     NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that the public education department be requested to convene a task force to study the safe transportation of special needs students with representation from both urban and rural areas of the state; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the task force include school bus drivers and school bus attendants, at least one school-based medical professional with experience serving special needs students, at least one educational assistant who works with special needs students, at least one special education teacher, a person from the state transportation division of the public education department, a person from the special education bureau of the public education department, one or more parents of special needs students and one representative of an applicable school employees' association; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the task force investigate:

          A. the number of specially equipped buses and bus routes for special needs students by school district;

          B. how many special needs students are being transported with and without special transportation requirements provided for in their individualized education programs;

          C. the policies and emergency evacuation plans in each school district and charter school about transporting special needs students and how often evacuation plans are practiced in a school year;

          D. what problems have arisen in the past with transporting special needs students, an evaluation of how well the problems were solved and whether they resulted in new policies; and

          E. what other states similar to New Mexico do to safely transport special needs students; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the task force consider multiple solutions and options for the safe transportation of special needs students, including more training for school bus drivers combined with the use of district- or charter-employed bus attendants to ensure the safety of special needs students; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that when considering school bus attendants, the task force be requested also to consider what kind of training bus attendants should have, both generally and more specifically related to the particular special needs of the students a bus attendant is responsible for; whether and how the transportation funding formula should be changed to provide for additional safety recommendations; and whether there are regional opportunities to provide necessary services more economically; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the task force report its findings and recommendations to the public education department by September 30, 2019, and the department report the task force's work and the department's responses to the task force's findings and recommendations to the legislative education study committee by November 1, 2019; and

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this memorial be transmitted to the public education department and the governor.