Bus Safety & Security
Were Policies followed?
What did the Camera Eye Reveal?
By: Pat Hunter
November 10, 2008
With the world of high tech gadgets, new digital video camera surveillance system offer features such GPS - Global Positioning that track speed and bus location that can aid to document school bus incidents, a bus drivers driving performance, student behavior and/or vandalism.
Loudon County Schools purchased and installed high tech video camera surveillance systems on all school buses but nothing has been said or disclosed regarding data or information of surveillance equipment about the bus driver incidence on Sept. 30th, which led to the arrest of Vicky Kwasny.
At the time of her arrest, Kwasny was also employed as the cafeteria manager of Loudon High School. Alison Millsaps is the Food Service Supervisor in charge of all school cafeterias and her job description also includes PR-media for the school system. Is there is a conflict of interest for Millsaps to be involved in PR while the issues of Kwasny's arrest and due process is pending?
Loudon County Schools pay out over $1 Million (est.) yearly for bus service to private operators.
Several months back, Deputy School Director Gil Luttrell who is in charge of Bus Transportation led a discussion how new bus surveillance equipment was needed. Loudon County Schools would maintain ownership of the new camera surveillance systems.
Luttrell announced that the initial installation was for 7 camera systems, which were obtained through a grant. The cost was about $15,495. GPS software was added to the purchase of camera equipment.
At his recommendation, the School Board voted to spend $48,000 for camera surveillance to equip all school buses for this school year.
Luttrell wanted to manage “shortcomings” of tapes when the school needed them. Luttrell felt comfortable with the new equipment. They simply turn in a card to school officials and they will read it in the office Luttrell explained.
He shared additional information, if there is a failure to provide a tape or driver error or carelessness, a driver would be fined.
Whenever a tape was needed for reviewing bus incidences there were issues and concerns but with the new high tech surveillance cameras, he felt that with the new system he would be able to maintain the availability of the tapes.
Chris Smallen sat nearby and shook his head in agreement as Luttrell described the camera surveillance equipment and its reliability. In addition to his job as Technology Director, Smallen is also in charge of public relations for schools. He is also affiliated with the community channel.
While the camera system involves some maintenance and upkeep, the system still requires that personnel be trained to manage the system and that’s were the school’s IT department comes in. Investing in the purchase of high tech cameras still requires some basic knowledge in PCs to operate the systems. Monitoring also helps to improve and address transportation issues and policies.
When asked to address policies and procedures about the bus security cameras, Chuck Cagle, TSBA attorney was quick to point out that due to privacy issues camera information is confidential. Cagle conveniently skirted the cameras with GPS tracking features may also document a drivers actions and performance that could also tell if a bus driver engaged in reckless driving or speeding.
What did school officials learn from the camera about Kwasny’s driving; nobody seems to want to talk about this issue? How can this incidence be applied to improve safety procedures?
Parents need to have confidence and trust in the system that works to protect students while transporting them to and from school and related transportation issues and policies. No parent or child should be fearful of a bus ride; the buck stops with the School Board to address these issues.
Surveillance cameras in police cars are used in court to document behavior, slurred speech, possible evidence of intoxication or substance abuse, state of mind, verbal statements including admission of guilt for causing the accident claimed.
A surveillance camera can also help to document an event such as a driver's erratic driving for prosecution in court. "Documentation of...driver incident, of the actions and or statements made without bias, prejudice or outside influence. Recorded video evidence has and can be used in court as long as legal guidelines and access controls are maintained."
Loudon County's School Board policy states that " At any time that students are present on the bus, the video camera shall be in operation."
It's time for the School Board to get some answers, were all policies followed regarding the surveillance cameras and transportation of these students, or will this be another cover-up? Parents and concerned citizens, please voice your concerns, please don't allow this matter to be swept under the rug, for the sake of the children.
CLICK TO VIEW VIDEO - School Board member Bobby Johnson discussed attending past TSBA conference meetings. BUS CAMERAS were the topic of past TSBA conferences so what did the School Board learn and how did they apply this information or knowledge about the school bus cameras?
School Board Email addresses:
School Board Chairman Leroy Tate: Leroy.Tate@TateandLyle.com
Larry Proaps: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Marcus: email@example.com
Scott Newman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bobby Johnson, Jr.: email@example.com
Steve Harrelson: firstname.lastname@example.org
New School board members
Lisa Russell: LRussell917@aol.com
Van Shaver: SarahLCcom@aol.com
Gary Ubben: email@example.com
Craig Simon: firstname.lastname@example.org