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October 06, 2011  |   Comments (7)   |   Post a comment

An extra eye in the bus

Footage from surveillance cameras can exonerate bus drivers who are falsely accused; on the other hand, it can help in correcting a driver or aide who may not be following proper procedures.

by Frank Di Giacomo - Also by this author


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In my August editorial, I discussed efforts to catch stop-arm runners with cameras on the outside of school buses. Now, I’ll shift focus to surveillance inside the bus.

Video cameras in school buses are vital. In addition to recording acts of violence and other incidents on the bus, surveillance systems can deter students from breaking the rules in the first place.

Footage from these cameras can also exonerate school bus drivers who are falsely accused; on the other hand, it can help in correcting a driver or bus aide who may not be following proper procedures.

These points are often reinforced in news stories that we come across. Here are a few good examples.

Important evidence
In Appomattox, Va., two teenage boys pled guilty to assaulting a 10-year-old special-needs student on a school bus in May. The teens were sentenced to 60 days at a juvenile detention center and probation, the maximum sentence allowed for their assault and battery and disorderly conduct convictions.

But the two teens weren’t the only ones charged in the incident. A judge certified charges of felony child neglect against the driver of the school bus.

According to The Roanoke Times, in an hour-long video taken by the bus’ security camera, the driver can be heard speaking with the children during the assault, but she does not go back into the passenger area to confront them. The victim of the assault can be intermittently heard yelling “no” and “stop.”

In a more shocking story, a former Lodi (Calif.) Unified School District bus driver got a 25-year, four-month sentence for molesting a then 8-year-old special-needs student on his bus.

The driver reportedly pled guilty in June to picking up the girl first on his route and pulling the bus over in a residential neighborhood to molest her. The driver was arrested in November after the girl told her family what had happened. But the crime was also captured on — you guessed it — the bus’ video surveillance system.

In a more positive story, video surveillance systems on a JAUNT Inc. transit bus in Virginia helped to identify two teens who were accused of stealing the vehicle in June.

A manager at the transit company said that the GPS system in the bus let the company’s dispatcher track the bus and alert law enforcement to its whereabouts. And it was the Radio Engineering Industries surveillance system on board that allowed officials to ID the perpetrators. Officials were also able to see when the bus hit a utility pole.

The teens led police on a 60-minute chase through three counties before crashing the bus into a column inside a shopping center. They were charged with obstruction of justice and possession of stolen property.

Growing trend?
Our 2010 Equipment Survey found that 61 percent of respondents had at least half of their school buses equipped with video surveillance systems. Still, 16 percent of respondents had no surveillance on any of their buses. Hopefully, we’ll see that latter number drop in the coming years.

These are lean times, and budgets are tight. But if you can find the funds for video surveillance systems, they may prove to be essential equipment.


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of course its and expense idea but if we had a system were a derector of transportation can have the ability monitor at his office at any given moment to hear the sounds in the bus by switching it on or of like a police scanner,. this would be proof who would be at fault, the camera does not pick up all the sounds like it should

sebastian    |    Oct 20, 2011 06:29 AM

in your first statement with the special needs child,, this would not happen if there was an aid on the bus to suppervise the chldren it is asupper idea to have a camera on the bus especially one on the driver

sebastian    |    Oct 20, 2011 06:22 AM

More cameras, 1 Front and 1 back.that can be reviewed by the driver on an easy basis, If you are driving, you must watch the road and traffic around you, you cannot look inside the bus all the time, and most students know this before they get to middle school, and so they wait until a driver is making a turn or waiting to pull out into traffic before they do something that they know they shouldn't.

Lee Zielonka    |    Oct 14, 2011 03:17 PM

We've had cameras since the early 1990's and more times than I can remember the film shows exactly what all parties involved did or did not do in a specific incident. Principals also use it during a student conduct issue to write up other students that the driver never seen involved. drivers have to keep their attention on operating the bus and watching the road while driving. Drivers will not always see everything but the recorder does and so does the school administrators. With bullying a big issue anymore school systems need to seriously consider entering a camera system per bus on their yearly bus bids. This way it is figure into a bid specification and the bus companies can install the system prior to delivery of the buses. Ask neighboring school systems what system they prefer and what troubles they may or may not experience with one system verses another. Do your research before you buy. Ease of use for your transportation department plus administrators should be the top priority since you'll all need access to the films or DVD type recordings. Some can even download from the bus equipment. So without knowing what system you wish to purchase it will be hard to figure that into a bus bid specs sheet.

Dan Luttrell    |    Oct 09, 2011 08:56 PM

The In Vehicle Camera System from Safety Track provides a 2 camera system. the first camera providesan interior shot, with the second camera providing an exterior view of the front of the bus. We just won the best practise award for the NSA conference held in pensacola Florida last week. Check it out. www.safetytrack.net/in=vehicle-camera

Jeff Stoker    |    Oct 06, 2011 06:20 PM

Continued from Post below: Some schools probably have a policy about how to deal with kids fighting on the bus -- Call dispatch, shout "stop!!" -- don't stand between the fighters and all that. Compare those policies with what one of this nation's leading experts, Jesus Villahermosa, President of Personal Awareness & Protective Training, Inc.. He trains school bus drivers what to do in the event of a fight on their bus. Real safety training includes the bus driver immediately calling for assistance, shutting down the bus in a safe place, throwing on every light on that bus (including the crossing lights), opening the bus door to allow any students to leave the bus that need to for their safety, to then shout very loud "TO STOP IT NOW!" The student in the fight that first looks at the driver is the one that wants out of the fight. Command that student to come to you now! ~ Jesus Villahermosa Website: http://www.crisisrealitytraining.com/

jkraemer    |    Oct 06, 2011 11:15 AM

My camera was my best friend on the school bus. Was with me over a decade and half after suing some parents that attacked my character and damaged my relationship with my employer. Had a camera been installed the suit and all the years of grief involved for everyone may have been avoided. Every bus in our fleet is now equipped with a working camera, a budget strain that had too happen after I won the largest school bus driver civil suit settlement in my state at that time. Would be done with my comment, except must address the bus driver charged with felony child neglect. Horrible use of the camera in this article involving a judge certified charges of felony child neglect against the driver of the school bus, for not walking back to try to break-up a fight. Ridiculous judgment. My left eye suffered damage while approaching to break-up a middle school age fight. Years of scaring and pain attempting to repair that eye, eye surgery to replace the lens - thousands upon thousands spent. Want a budget strain? Send untrained or poorly trained bus drivers in to breaking up fights. This abusive use of the school bus driver, most often the only adult on the school bus stepping into a fight unless involving very small children is one of the most dangerous acts a management style can demand. Hundreds of bus drivers are seriously injured by students and parents every year -- to then attempting to demand the drivers jump in and break-up fights? And if the driver is knocked-out leaves the students without any supervision what-so-ever. Law enforcement have extensive skills training, partners, batons, taser’s, guns and extensive training how to use these devices. Where is the bus driver's, partner, baton, taser, and gun? Where is the intensive training? Some schools probably have a policy about how to deal with kids fighting on the bus -- Call dispatch, shout "stop!!" -- don't stand between the fighters and all that. Compare those policies with what one of this nation's leading e

jkraemer    |    Oct 06, 2011 11:12 AM

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