Wednesday, August 06, 2008

School Bus Video Cameras Add Safety Factor in Jackson County

How much money should be spent on school safety? It's a question best asked before there is a safety problem, or a school tragedy. And that is what should be kept in mind regarding the $286,400 recently spent to upgrade the video camera systems on Jackson-Madison County school buses. We think it is a good investment in school safety.

The new digital camera systems should give parents and students an added sense of security when children are riding school buses. No child should feel unsafe on a school bus. Nor should parents have to worry about school bus behavior.

The majority of buses have had video cameras for several years. But the previous system used old-fashioned video cassette tapes, had only one camera, and the system was maintenance intensive.

The new digital system includes three video cameras and sound recording. The cameras also record in the dark, which will aid early morning bus runs during the winter as well as when buses are used during evening hours to transport students to sanctioned school events. The digital system also should be more reliable. It can keep a record for 30 days and has security features that restrict who can access the recordings.

Jackson-Madison County school buses do not have bus monitors. That would be our preference when it comes to maintaining order and safety on school buses. But consider that cost. It could easily reach a half-million dollars a year if monitors were paid minimum wage and rode the buses four hours each school day.

With high gas prices, school bus ridership is expected to increase this school year as parents try to cut back on driving. Buses likely will have more students, and that could lead to more discipline problems. Drivers have their hands full watching traffic and navigating their routes. The extra cameras should make an impression on student bus riders that they aren't likely to get away with breaking school bus safety rules.

When students do get out of line, the evidence of their misbehavior should be solid. Then it will be up to school officials to enforce the bus safety rules quickly and thoroughly. Student bus riders and their parents need to understand that they will be held accountable for student behavior on school buses. It's a small price to pay for student safety.