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Timothy L. Watts vs. Manheim Township School District

We wish to congratulate Tim Watts in his victory in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania! Thank you for putting your TRUST in the attorneys at Reese, Samley, Wagenseller, Mecum & Longer, P.C.

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular matter, Tim shares equal legal and physical custody, on an alternating weekly basis, of his son, C.W.

Both parents live in the Manheim Township school district, with Mr. Watts 4 ½ miles from the school and C.W.’s mother 5 ½ miles from the school.

Before 2010, C.W. was transported by bus to and from school from the homes of both parents. In the 2010-2011 school year the School District implemented changes in their transportation policy, which meant C.W. would be transported to and from only one location (his mother’s home), even though there was an available seat for him on both buses! The parents’ bus-stops for C.W. are 1.9 miles apart. 1.9 miles may not seem terribly far. But consider your son or daughter, about 7th grade (or younger), having to walk 1.9 miles to a bus stop before 7 in the morning in the dark in bad weather – does it sound far now?

This new policy was not strictly enforced until the summer of 2012 when Mr. Watts received a phone call at work notifying him they would no longer be providing transportation for his young son to and from his residence. C.W.’s only bus stop was to be at his mother’s residence, 1.9 miles away. Due to Mr. Watts’ employment obligations, this required Mr. Watts to hire a neighbor just to drive C.W. to school!

Given that there was already a bus stop a few hundred feet from his home, requiring no new stop and there were already seats on the bus, Tim thought surely that common sense would prevail. Tim first sought relief from the Transportation Supervisor, then the Middle School principal, then the superintendent, then the Manheim Township School Board, and finally the Manheim Township School District solicitor, all to no avail. This litigation then ensued. Mr. Watts was opposed not only by the school district but by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association as well.

In the matter of Timothy L. Watts vs. Manheim Township School District, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided, by a majority, that the Manheim Township School District must provide C.W. transportation to and from both of his residences within the school district. The result now obligates every school district in the Commonwealth, not just Manheim Township. The Court held as follows:

“.. we conclude that the School District must provide transportation from and to both Mother’s and Father’s residences because: when the School District elected to provide transportation to students’ residences under Section 1361(1), it was required to do so to C.W.’s residence; C.W. has two residences by virtue of his parents’ equally shared physical custody; there is no provision requiring parents to choose a residence for transportation purposes (in contrast to enrollment); and students cannot be required to travel more than 1 ½ miles from their residences to the bus stop. Accordingly, we hold that the trial court properly granted Father’s permanent injunction because the School District here is mandated to provide C.W. with transportation to and from school to both of his residences.”

Mr. Reese of our office handled the matter for Mr. Watts.