It seems like schools are now being continually bombarded with new ideas and technologies for improving school bus safety. With so much technical innovation happening across the transportation industry, it’s inevitable that many of these new technologies would make their way onto buses. However, which ones are actually worth the money?
One easy answer to this question is also one of the most well-established technologies available: video cameras. Camera systems are affordable and bring a lot of benefits with very few actual drawbacks. They’re among the best all-around investments you can make into your school buses.
Here are four major benefits to putting video cameras on your school buses:
Ensure Proper Safety Procedures Are Being Followed on the Bus
With video cameras in place, you never have to worry about whether your bus drivers are following safety procedures and properly correcting student behavior. You don’t have to rely on hearsay; you’ll have direct video proof of what’s happening on your buses. Even if you don’t watch every single video, doing a random audit of taped bus rides can do a lot to prevent important policies from being ignored.
Encourage Better Rider Behavior
There’s no reason to belabor this point, but simply put, when the students know they’re on camera, they’re a lot less likely to act out. Will it do away with all bad behavior? Of course not. But it should discourage more overt problem behavior.
Protect Your Drivers in Disputes With Parents
One of the worst situations for a bus driver is being stuck in a he-said/she-said argument with a student and their parents. Many parents simply won’t want to accept that their child has been misbehaving on the bus, and it can be difficult for bus drivers to win that argument. However, with video on their side, it’s a different story. Video can prove which students were misbehaving, and which weren’t. This turns video into a tool which helps your best drivers.
Have Context for Controversial Decisions
No rule book can cover 100% of incidents that might happen on the road, or judgement calls a driver might need to make at the spur of the moment. As an administrator who wasn’t on the bus, judging the rightness of those decisions can be extremely difficult – unless there’s video. Then you’ll have much more context when determining whether the driver acted appropriately.
Best Practices for School Bus Security and Surveillance
For many schools, onboard video camera systems represent an excellent solution to many school bus security issues. That said, video cameras can create problems of their own, particularly if students or parents are concerned about privacy.
Having a clear policy outlining best practices for use of the cameras will go a long way towards preventing these problems!
Here are five important best practices for implementing a school bus security camera policy:
Check Your Local and State Laws
Some states, such as California, have explicit laws outlining the usage of video cameras on public property. Individual cities or counties could potentially have relevant laws, as well. Don’t invest in cameras until you understand the regulatory environment.
Notify Parents of Your Plans
There will usually be less pushback if parents have fair warning that the cameras are coming, coupled with an explanation of how they work and what rules you’re putting in place regarding their use. This isn’t something that should come as a surprise to parents who stay informed about district policies.
Have Clear Policies for Record-Keeping, Retention, and Deletion
Unless there are relevant regulations covering security video retention in your area, it will be up to you how long you keep recordings. However, this should be made into a policy that is clearly expressed and upheld. There should also be clear policies on how the video data is destroyed when the retention period is over.
Properly Secure Your Video Records
Bus camera footage should be treated as private information, akin to student records, only to be accessed by authorized personnel. Accordingly, the raw footage should be properly stored on a locked-down server with high security requirements for access. Think twice about keeping such footage in cloud servers. If the cloud servers were to be hacked, it could be extremely embarrassing for anyone on the cameras. Likewise, have policies and procedures in place for handling authorized requests for access to the data, such as from law enforcement.
It’s a good idea to have notices on all your buses that are visible to everyone boarding the bus that surveillance systems are in use. This protects against the edge case of a guest rider getting on the bus without being previously told about the cameras.
Security cameras can be an excellent addition to buses, as long as they’re backed by policies protecting students and drivers from misuse.
This information is courtesy of BusBoss, which has been in the business of providing schools and bus contractors with user-friendly bus routing products and services since January 1998, www.busboss.com.