Cameras on board school buses are another tool in the battle against bullying, according to Fairfield County school districts.
Part of the legislation passed last session prohibits bullying outside the school setting. That means schools can get involved when bullying occurs on the bus. Many area school districts have installed cameras on the bus to identify and prevent fighting or disorderly behavior.
“The cameras we have installed on the school buses are very effective for us,” said Rick Lupinacci, transportation coordinator. “We have seen some cases of what can be described as bullying, and many other types of misbehavior.”
Ridgefield is one of several schools in the region with cameras on at least some of their buses. Other districts include , , and . Most school officials from districts that employ cameras usually only look at the footage when there's a complaint.
The school principals usually get information about a potential problem from either a student or a parent. Then the transportation coordinators watch the video and alert them to any inappropriate or dangerous behavior. The schools, not the coordinators, handle any kind of punishment, if there is one.
“We never did have a lot of incidents before, but the cameras are useful in a couple of ways,” said Dave Lustberg, Transportation Coordinator for the . “We are able to go and review video at the request of the principle. What I found is it’s not a tremendous deterrent beforehand, but instead of students being able to deny behavior we can correct it.”
Cameras can help eliminate the “he said/she said” war of words, said Lustberg who oversees two different cycles of pick-up and drop-off.
That’s important because until cameras on board school buses presented a unique opportunity for bullies – captive audience with little adult supervision.
According to the American School Bus Council, school buses transport about 26 million of the 50 million students who attend school each day.
“School bus drivers are being trained with new techniques to manage student behavior and are partnering with school administrators to address the issue. Many school buses now have cameras installed, both inside and out, to monitor students and help with identification and resolution of problems,” according to the ASBC website.
In Fairfield, more than 95 of the buses have cameras, said John Ficke, Transportation Manager.
“We do feel these are very helpful at controlling students. We usually have some issues at the beginning of the school year but then students remember the camera’s are there and things quiet down,” he said.
In Fairfield the camera hard drives are downloaded and then CD copies distributed to school administration. The bus company can use the video to deal with driver issues, Ficke said.
While some students think school faculty watches the videos for kicks, other said the cameras don’t help stop bad behavior.
“Kids don’t care. They still jump up,” said Zoë, a 5th grader at . “They also wave to the cameras and say ‘Hi.’”
Aside from helping battle bullying, the cameras can help keep general behavior in check, Lustberg said.
“In that way the cameras are even more helpful in bus safety,” Lustberg said. “Whether the kids are just fooling around, standing; we can review the tapes and make corrections.”
In Weston video feeds are stored on a hard drive for 30 days at which time they are destroyed.
Lupinacci said there are 3 cameras per bus: 1 in the rear, 1 facing front to rear and 1 on the driver and boarding door. “They are also a great tool to monitor the drivers,” Lupinacci said. “The drivers know they are there and have been very well behaved.”