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February 01, 2002  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Audio feed an invasion of privacy?

Lawsuit challenges legality of recording bus conversations


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School districts and contractors who employ video surveillance in their school buses should be wary of recording audio. In a court case in Berks County, Pa., a student has sued her former school district for alleged violation of privacy due to audio recordings of conversations on her school bus. Morgan Keppley is seeking $50,000 in damages from the Twin Valley School District, the school board and two bus companies that serve the district, Eschelman Transportation Inc. and George Krapf Jr. and Sons. Keppley, who’s now 20, is also seeking a class-action lawsuit representing other former Twin Valley classmates who rode the bus. Her lawsuit did not reveal the exact nature of the recorded conversation. School officials said that audio surveillance is not the objective of the camera systems, adding that only the video portion is made available for review to qualified individuals. Upon learning of the lawsuit, several school bus operators in the area have disconnected the audio feed to their videocamera systems. Terry Van Lear, president of Van Lear Equipment Inc. in Reading, Pa., said all of his 175 school buses are equipped with camera boxes, although only some of the boxes are loaded with cameras. He has since disconnected the audio line, as have other local school bus operators, he said. The use of video surveillance on school buses has become almost routine at school districts across the United States. According to a recent survey by SCHOOL BUS FLEET magazine, about 50 percent of school buses are equipped with video surveillance cameras or decoy boxes.

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