Section 234.02, Florida Statutes 2001
234.02 Safety and health of pupils.--Maximum regard for safety and adequate protection of health are primary requirements that must be observed by school boards in routing buses, appointing drivers, and providing and operating equipment, in accordance with all requirements of law and regulations of the commissioner in providing transportation pursuant to s. 234.01:
(1) School boards shall use school buses, as defined in s. 234.051, for all regular transportation. Regular transportation or regular use means transportation of students to and from school or school-related activities that are part of a scheduled series or sequence of events to the same location. "Students" means, for the purposes of this section, students enrolled in the public schools in prekindergarten programs through grade 12. School boards may regularly use motor vehicles other than school buses only under the following conditions:
(a) When the transportation is for physically handicapped or isolated students and the district has elected to provide for the transportation of the student through written or oral contracts or agreements.
(b) When the transportation is a part of a comprehensive contract for a specialized educational program between a school board and a service provider who provides instruction, transportation, and other services.
(c) When the transportation is provided through a public transit system.
(d) When the transportation of students is necessary or practical in a motor vehicle owned or operated by a school board other than a school bus, such transportation must be provided in designated seating positions in a passenger car not to exceed 8 students or in a multipurpose passenger vehicle designed to transport 10 or fewer persons which meets all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. Multipurpose passenger vehicles classified as utility vehicles with a wheelbase of 110 inches or less which are required by federal motor vehicle standards to display a rollover warning label may not be used.
When students are transported in motor vehicles, the occupant crash protection system provided by the vehicle manufacturer must be used unless the student's physical condition prohibits such use.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (1), school boards may authorize the transportation of students in privately owned motor vehicles on a case-by-case basis only in the following circumstances:
(a) When a student is ill or injured and must be taken home or to a medical treatment facility under nonemergency circumstances; and
1. The school has been unable to contact the student's parent or guardian or such parent, guardian, or responsible adult designated by the parent or guardian is not available to provide the transportation;
2. Proper adult supervision of the student is available at the location to which the student is being transported;
3. The transportation is approved by the school principal, or a school administrator designated by the principal to grant or deny such approval, or in the absence of the principal and designee, by the highest ranking school administrator or teacher available under the circumstances; and
4. If the school has been unable to contact the parent or guardian prior to the transportation, the school shall continue to seek to contact the parent or guardian until the school is able to notify the parent or guardian of the transportation and the pertinent circumstances.
(b) When the transportation is in connection with a school function or event regarding which the school district or school has undertaken to participate or to sponsor or provide the participation of students; and
1. The function or event is a single event that is not part of a scheduled series or sequence of events to the same location, such as, but not limited to, a field trip, a recreational outing, an interscholastic competition or cooperative event, an event connected with an extracurricular activity offered by the school, or an event connected to an educational program, such as, but not limited to, a job interview as part of a cooperative education program;
2. Transportation is not available, as a practical matter, using a school bus or school district passenger car; and
3. Each student's parent or guardian is notified, in writing, regarding the transportation arrangement and gives written consent before a student is transported in a privately owned motor vehicle.
(c) When a school board requires employees such as school social workers and attendance officers to use their own motor vehicles to perform duties of employment, and such duties include the occasional transportation of students.
(3) When approval is granted for the transportation of students in a privately owned vehicle, the provisions of s. 234.03 regarding liability for tort claims are applicable. School district employees who provide approved transportation in privately owned vehicles are acting within the scope of their employment. Parents, guardians, or other responsible adults who provide approved transportation in privately owned vehicles have the same exposure to, and protections from, risks of personal liability as do school district employees acting within the scope of their employment.
(4) Each school board may establish policies that restrict the use of privately owned motor vehicles to circumstances that are more limited than are described in this section or that prohibit such use. Each school board may establish policies that provide for more extensive requirements for approval, parental notification and consent procedures, insurance coverage, driver qualifications, or a combination of these.
(5) When transportation is authorized in privately owned vehicles, students may be transported only in designated seating positions and must use the occupant crash protection system provided by the vehicle manufacturer.
(6) School boards may contract with a common carrier to transport students to and from in-season and postseason athletic contests and to and from a school function or event in which the school district or a school has undertaken to participate or to provide or sponsor the participation of students.
(7) Transportation for adult students may be provided by any appropriate means as authorized by the school board when the transportation is accepted as a responsibility by the school board as provided in s. 234.01.
(8) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, in an emergency situation that constitutes an imminent threat to student health or safety, school personnel may take whatever action is necessary under the circumstances to protect student health and safety.
(9) Except as provided in s. 234.211, transportation is not the responsibility of the school board in connection with any event or activity that is not an event or activity offered by the school district or an event or an activity in which the school district or school has agreed to participate, cosponsor, or require the participation of students, and the school board has no liability for transportation arranged and provided by parents or other parties to such events or activities.
(10) Each school board shall designate and adopt a specific plan for adequate examination, maintenance, and repair of transportation equipment. Examination of the mechanical condition of each school bus must be made by a capable mechanic at least once each month that the bus is in operation.
(11) The superintendent shall notify the school board of any school bus that does not meet all requirements of law and regulations of the commissioner, and the school board shall, if the school bus is in an unsafe condition, withdraw it from use as a school bus until the bus meets the requirements. The Department of Education may inspect or have inspected any school bus to determine whether the bus meets requirements of law and regulations of the commissioner. The department may, after due notice to a school board that any school bus does not meet certain requirements of law and regulations of the commissioner, rule that the bus must be withdrawn from use as a school bus, this ruling to be effective forthwith or upon a date to be specified therein, whereupon the school board shall withdraw same from use as a school bus until the bus meets requirements of law and regulations of the commissioner and until the department has officially revoked the pertinent ruling. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter, general purpose urban transit systems are declared qualified to transport children to and from school.
(12)(a) The routing and scheduling of school buses must be planned to eliminate the necessity for children to stand while a school bus is in motion. When circumstances of an emergency nature temporarily require transporting children on school buses in excess of the rated seating capacity, the buses must proceed at a reduced rate of speed to maximize safety of the students, taking into account existing traffic conditions. Each school board is responsible for prompt relief of the emergency condition by providing additional equipment, bus rerouting, bus rescheduling, or other appropriate remedial action.
(b) Each school board, after considering recommendations from the superintendent, shall designate, by map or otherwise, or shall provide by school board rule for the designation of, nontransportation zones that are composed of all areas in the district from which it is unnecessary or impracticable to furnish transportation. Nontransportation zones must be designated annually before the opening of school and the designation of bus routes for the succeeding school year. Each school board, after considering recommendations from the superintendent, shall specifically designate, or shall provide by school board rule for the designation of, specific routes to be traveled regularly by school buses, and each route must meet the requirements prescribed by rules of the commissioner.
(c) Each district school board shall establish school bus stops, or provide by school board rule for the establishment of school bus stops, as necessary at the most reasonably safe locations available. Where unusual traffic hazards exist at school bus stops on roads maintained by the state outside of municipalities, the Department of Transportation, in concurrence and cooperation with and upon request of the district school board, shall place signs at such bus stops warning motorists of the location of the stops.
(13) The Commissioner of Education may adopt rules to implement this section as are necessary or desirable in the interest of student health and safety.
History.--s. 802, ch. 19355, 1939; CGL 1940 Supp. 892(261); s. 1, ch. 69-300; s. 106, ch. 72-221; s. 1, ch. 74-132; s. 15, ch. 75-284; s. 1, ch. 77-174; s. 7, ch. 89-101; s. 6, ch. 89-278; s. 7, ch. 90-172; s. 49, ch. 90-288; s. 46, ch. 91-105; s. 1, ch. 95-177; s. 9, ch. 96-246; s. 133, ch. 97-190; s. 2, ch. 2000-313.