Districts Required to Subsidize Private School Transportation Where There is Equal Joint Custody

Commonwealth Court Decides that Separated Parents who live in Different School Districts, each within Ten Miles of a Private School, who have Equal Custody are Each Entitled to School Subsidized Transportation.

It is not very usual to find a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court decision which impacts domestic relations law, but on September 14, 2012, the Court issued such a decision in the case of Wyland v. West Shore School District.

Wyland has a very specific set of circumstances and facts.  In Wyland, the parents had equal custody, each having custody of the children for seven out of fourteen days.  The parents lived in one school district and that district provided transportation within ten miles of the school district to a private school outside of the district from the home of each parent.  Subsequently, the Mother moved to a neighboring school district and received transportation from that school district for the children when they were at her house.  The school district where the Father lived then refused further transportation service because the children were “residents” in Mother’s school district.  The Father sought an order requiring his school district to continue providing transportation.  The school district resisted saying that it is the policy of the Pennsylvania Department of Education to designate a single school district as the resident school district of the children and only that district must provide transportation.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education and the school district both advocated the policy of one district of residence but were unable to demonstrate any statutory obligation or promulgated rule of the Pennsylvania Department of Education which restricted busing to private schools within ten miles of the district to one district as opposed to one resident district for enrollment or education purposes.  Both districts were required to provide transportation when the district in which the Father resided refused to provide transportation to the private school.

This case must be distinguished from the case where both parents attempted to enroll the children in two separate school districts.  Of course, children have to attend one school.  There are specific provisions that require one residence for attendance for school.  This case also will only apply to cases where the school district provides transportation to that private school or that private school is within ten miles of the school district and the school district provides transportation to in district children.