2010-12-17 / Top Stories

City Appeals School Bus Ruling

Law Department Gets Stay
By Howard Schwach

The city’s Law Department has won a stay of a ruling made last week by a Staten Island Supreme Court judge to reinstate a 40-year-old busing program that transported students at special schools and those who live in areas with no public transportation to and from their school buildings.

“We informed the other side of our intent to appeal on the evening of December 8, and we filed our appeal with the court the next morning,” said Katie Ahlers O’Brien, a spokesperson for the city’s Law Department. “We expect the other side to go to the Appellate Division [of the state court] to get the stay overturned.”

Until and unless the stay is overturned, she said, the Department of Education has no obligation to run the special buses.

The ruling will impact students who attend the Scholars’ Academy in Rockaway Park, as well as those students who live in Breezy Point and attend local public and parochial schools.

The original lawsuit was instituted in September, after the city cut the special program in the wake of budget cuts ordered by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Late in the month, City Councilman Eric Ulrich and a local parent, Maureen McVeigh, were given leave by the court to join the lawsuit on behalf of all the students in Community School District 27, which includes Rockaway.

For the last 40 years, Ulrich argued in his court papers, the Department of Education has provided free yellow buses to students attending special programs such as the Scholars’ Academy, a magnet program for District 27 that draws many students from both Breezy Point and the mainland.

This year, however, due to budget cuts, the DOE did away with the special buses for both seventh- and eighth-grade students, leaving parents to fend for themselves or to put young students on public transportation.

The court basically agreed with Ulrich.

Judge John Fusco, citing Chancellor’s Regulation SA-801, said that the Department of Education was required to provide school buses for “the small number of cases where public transportation facilities are inadequate or unavailable.”

Ulrich was buoyed by the decision.

“Some people say you can’t fight City Hall and win, but they’re wrong. Yesterday’s ruling was a tremendous victory for the parents and children of Rockaway. The judge’s decision concluded what we already knew – that the City made this cut without regard for the safety and welfare of the children. Instead, the bureaucrats at the DOE concocted an ill-conceived budget scheme that left 7th and 8th graders stranded. I am eager to see if the incoming Schools Chancellor will use her business acumen to prevent misguided cuts like these in the future,” Ulrich said.

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