The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 1, 2013

School bus cameras keep an eye on Conneaut kids

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Video cameras installed on Conneaut Area City Schools buses over the summer are adding an extra layer of security for students and staff, said Cris Newcomb, Conneaut Board of Education president.

Each of the Conneaut district’s 24 buses have been fitted with three cameras that boast super-sharp video resolution and clear audio, said Tim Gross, who oversees the district’s transportation department. Cameras have also been installed in school-owned vans, he said. Images are kept on a digital video recorder, Gross said.

Cost of the project was absorbed by the district’s permanent improvement/technology fund, Newcomb said.

No particular security issues prompted the security upgrade, Newcomb said. Instead, the gear will perform a number of important functions, he said.

“They can protect against bullying and also are there for the protection of the drivers,” he said. “They can’t be turning around in their seats trying to keep track of students (who act up).

“It’s a safety issue for the students, too,” Newcomb said. “Parents should rest a little easier knowing cameras are on board. It’s another security tool.”

Other districts in the area have already put video cameras on buses, Newcomb said. Conneaut was waiting for some newer buses to join the fleet to make installation a little easier, he said.

Cameras can be removed and transferred to other vehicles when a bus is retired, Newcomb said. Three cameras per bus ensure “all the angles” can be viewed, he said.

At a Conneaut Board of Education meeting this past week, Superintendent Kent Houston emphasized only administrators will have access to images captured by the cameras to safeguard the privacy of students. Videos will also lend a hand should a discipline issue are taken to a higher authority, Newcomb said.

“It will be a useful tool if kids or parents go to Juvenile Court,” he said.

It was not immediately known if students are aware the cameras are now in place. But as of Friday morning, more than three days into the new school year, no bus-related conduct problems had been reported to Gross, he said.