$48,000 new cameras + 2 Major Bus Incidents =
By: Pat Hunter
April 26, 2009
At last Tuesday's school board budget workshop during public comment period, 5th District resident Richard Truitt remembered that during last year’s budget, the School Board spent $48,000 to put cameras in buses and when there was a major school bus incident, “You got ZERO” Truitt said. it seemed like a lot of money at the time and the cameras were state of the art surveillance.
I fool with camera systems he explained and those things take maintenance and looking after. If you’re putting them on a contractor’s bus, Truitt didn’t understand what incentives there was for school bus operators to make sure that they worked right.
You spent $48,000 and "You got ZERO." Chairman Leroy Tate referred him to Gil Luttrell, Assistant Director and Transportation Director, when he had time Luttrell could explain how the units were installed and results and operations and why the units didn’t work. Truitt didn’t get to finish his sentence before Tate cut his comments short. The very next day, another school bus was involved in another incident and once again the surveillance cameras were not working.
Truitt is correct, the surveillance system cannot maintain itself and requires periodic checking of the units! The system cannot train personnel on the use and maintenance. Those who manage the system will also need basic computer PC knowledge. Unless the units are setup for wireless downloads, policies and procedures have to be in place to manage and maintain the video surveillance systems. Someone needs to be trained to access the video cards and download the data and information and make sure the system is working properly. Trained personnel need to check to make sure the video card is back in the camera.
At the November 5, 2008 Special Called meeting while drug testing and bus driver policy was under discussion, Pat Hunter requested that the School Board also look into a policy that addressed training and procedures of surveillance cameras in school buses.
Attorney Cagle told Hunter that the camera tapes create confidential records and they have gone to court to protect confidentiality. The cameras are placed in school buses to detect student misbehavior and as evidence of student misbehavior. He went on to say that cameras are usually fashioned in such a way not to catch bus drivers!
With two bus incidents and charges to both bus drivers, documented events and actions could help defend or prosecute drivers, defend from false accusations or document student misbehavior, bullying, assault, hate crimes or protect a school system against liability issues and lawsuits.
It looks like the Loudon County Board of Education may face huge liability issues and possible lawsuits from parents over bus safety issues.
How many times have we heard some School Board members say, that the School Board shouldn’t micromanage, that’s why we have professionals? So far, there has been a litany of excuses from school professionals. Two school bus incidents have occurred under the new School Director’s short term of employment and his evaluation is due. The Buck stops with the Loudon County School Board to address these issues!