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.