KIM BURDI ON FEB 12, 2016
Feb. 11–When Gunter Independent School District students board their school buses this month, they may see and feel a difference. Gunter ISD is joining other Grayson County districts who have implemented security cameras in school buses.
“We rarely have issues but it certainly can happen when you have between 60 and 70 kids on a bus,” Gunter ISD Superintendent Jill Siler said. “You want a high level of safety and security so if something were to happen, you can pull the footage up and see what happened. With that capability, we can pinpoint any issues that have happened and deal with it much more quickly and effectively.”
Sherman Independent School District has been using a camera system on school buses since 1994, Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent Tyson Bennett said. While the bus driver is focusing on the road, he said, it is beneficial to have another set of eyes via the camera to maintain safety, order and discipline.
“Every bus has disruptive students who don’t want to follow the rules and they have to face the consequences,” Randy Taylor, Denison Independent School District director of transportation, said. “I get calls from a set of parents that say, so-and-so hit my kid first and my kid wasn’t doing anything. Then the other set of parents call and say the same thing. We look at the video and it shows us one student sitting in their seat while the other one jumps over the seat and wails on him.”
Taylor said the video recording provides protection for the students just as much as the drivers.
Taylor recalled an incident when a parent reported inappropriate behavior involving a bus driver and student. After reviewing the video footage several times with a Denison Police officer, Taylor said, there was nothing of that nature on the recording. Because of the video recording, he said, the bus driver did face the threat of charges for a crime he did not commit.
The three new Gunter ISD school buses will be equipped with two cameras mounted to the ceiling. The remaining 13 buses without camera systems will have the same equipment installed at a later time this year, Siler said.
Though the cameras are advantageous for the district, they do have limits.
Denison ISD has more than two cameras in each bus, but Taylor said sometimes there can be a problem when an incident is reported about elementary school students. With the smaller children, he said, the camera only captures the tops of their heads because the seat-backs are designed to be high for safety. If students aren’t sitting in the front, he said it’s hard to determine if an incident took place.
“Sometimes a camera doesn’t matter and they are going to do what they are going to do, but we’re going to deter (bad behavior) as much as we can,” Taylor said.
Because enrollment was higher than expected for the 2015-2016 school year, Siler said, Gunter ISD has received additional revenue which allowed the purchase of three school buses. The district is currently financing the buses over five years for a total of $268,000.
“Our board is very deliberate in their financial decisions,” Siler said. “We felt that it (the new buses) would have an important impact on our students from a security and safety standpoint because they are outfitted with cameras but also from a comfort standpoint by providing air conditioning and a smoother ride to and from school.”
Copyright 2016 – Herald Democrat, Sherman, Texas