Carroll County's year-old policy restricting the number of changes students can make in their school bus stops was upheld by the state last week.
In a challenge to the county's policy -- which limits the20,000 students who use school buses to one morning stop and one afternoon stop -- Eldersburg parent Susan Ballas had asked the Board of Education to allow her third-grade daughter to get off the bus at a different stop a mile from her home two days a week.
The county's policy prohibits such a move, except in the case of an emergency or if the changed bus stop is consistent every week.
Ballas' job as a nurse -- with rotating shifts -- prevents her from knowing when she will need to have her daughter dropped off at a bus stop other than her regular one.
Ballas could not be reached for comment last week.
"We find that there is no dispute as to any material fact and the local board did not act in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or illegal manner," the state board said in upholding the county policy.
Ballas had been given permission to make the flexible bus stop arrangements for three years before the policy was implemented about a year ago. She appealed to the superintendent's office, who reinforced the policy. She then unsuccessfully appealed to the school board, which also upheld the policy. She cannot appeal the decision any further, legal experts said.
The state board, in keeping the county's policy intact, in effect said that other such policies across thestate also are valid.
"This case applies only to Carroll County'spolicy, but, to the extent that similar policies in other counties are challenged, it would appear the board would find in favor of the school boards," said Assistant State Attorney General Valerie V. Cloutier, principal counsel to the school board.
Both Baltimore County,which transports 54,000 students a day, and Howard County, with 26,000, have similar policies.
While Carroll Superintendent R. Edward Shilling was pleased with the state decision, he said, "I take no pleasure in Mrs. Ballas' loss. She did have a legitimate concern."