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clips are protected by all the rules that protect student records. We maintain a solid chain of custody. Even the police or courts must subpoena a clip. Even then, we do not turn over the clip but allow them to view it. It has made life easier in most respects.” Todd Watkins,


director of transpor-


tation for Montgomery County (Md.) Schools, says the district has had inside cameras for about eight years, but the no- ticeable improvement is not necessarily in student behavior. “When there is an incident, there is a


marked improvement in how it is dealt with,” Watkins says. “When you see the stu- dent’s behavior on tape, it makes it easier for the administrator to take decisive ac- tion. Tere are no more questions about whose version of the story is the right one. I think [onboard cameras] have some initial value in improving behavior when [stu- dents] first see them, but they forget the cameras are there after a period of time.” Dan Schultz, transportation director for


Iowa’s Southeast Polk Community School District, said more consistent driver habits are the big return when investing in on- board cameras, even though the students can suffer behavioral relapses. “Bus driver behavior and driving hab-


its have become much more consistent. Te behavior of drivers toward students is better now because they are being re- corded,” he adds. “I noticed an initial drop in student problems, but after a period of time, they got used to the cameras, and I haven’t seen a huge decrease in incidents.”


STOP-ARM CAMERAS AND THE ‘SOCCER BALL EFFECT’ Recent one-day tallies of stop arm vio-


lations unveiled 8,917 violations in Florida and 7,028 violations in Maryland. How- ever, figures on violations in states with a stop-arm camera law are almost nonex- istent because the laws have not been in effect long enough to get reliable numbers or to gauge how sustainable a decrease in violations can be. NASDPTS was expected to release results this summer on one- day counts performed by state members. Washington state, which passed its own law this spring allowing districts to equip school buses with stop-arm cameras,


plans to hold its first mandated, one-day count next May. Te year preceding the law’s enactment


in Rhode Island in 2008, 131 tickets were issued for stop arm violations for 1,400 buses


statewide, according to figures


supplied by SmartBus Live, the technol- ogy provider for Providence Schools and several other districts. A year later, 2,170 tickets were issued from images supplied by cameras on only 17 buses in two school districts. SmartBus President Tomas O’Connor says that since November 2008, more than 10,400 tickets have been issued with a 99 percent conviction rate. “Te cameras work,” O’Connor says. “In-


dividual buses show a decrease below the 1.2 violations per bus per day to about 1 violation per day. With a 99 percent con- viction rate and with data on individual





the driver or pay the fine. Schultz says any money from tickets


goes to the state not the school district. “I’d rather keep it that way because I


don’t want the public to say we’re doing this for money. Te big return on invest- ment is safety. It’s done for safety,” he adds. Schultz used cameras in another small-


er school district and noticed a dramatic decrease in stop arm violations. “Te oth- er district was smaller and people talked about it at the local café,” Schultz says. “We’ve had cameras here only a year and a half. I cannot say that violations have been reduced significantly, but we are watching that. It will take some time.” Montgomery County’s Watkins says the


district initially purchased stop arm cam- eras to help document the need for the law that was passed this year in Maryland and


Our drivers feel supported and I believe our legal advisors are more comfortable be-


cause we have better documentation. ❞ — Kathy Kiehl, Akron (Ohio) Public Schools


bus routes, early indications are that a de- terrent is being created.” O’Connor says the goal of the program is to elicit the “soccer ball effect” for school buses. “When people see a ball roll into the street, they immedi- ately slam on their brakes, but they speed up when they see the flashing lights on a school bus. So our goal is to get that soccer ball effect for school buses.” Meanwhile, Iowa has no law allowing or


preventing the use of stop arm cameras, although a movement for such legisla- tion has begun in response to the recent death of 7-year-old Kadyn Halverson, who was struck by a car as she attempted to board her bus. Nevertheless, Southeast Community Schools uses camera images to support bus drivers’ testimony in court, where he boasts a more than 90-percent conviction rate when the images are used. “Te stop arm camera is not issuing the


ticket,” Schultz says. “Te camera is a wit- ness to the event. When the bus driver testifies in court, that testimony is sup- ported by the camera.” He said state law does require the vehicle owner to identify


46 School Transportation News Magazine August 2011


to be able to issue tickets to violators. He shares Schultz’s feelings about the fines. “We don’t care about the fines; we want


to bring a halt to stop-arm violations,” he adds. “Overall, cameras have been a good investment. Our whole purpose in getting outside cameras


initially was someday


to be able to issue tickets to people run- ning stop arms. Now that the legislation is passed, we want to support the police.” Trough experience Watkins has


changed camera companies and has up- graded his equipment to stronger lenses. He advises his counterparts to exercise caution when shopping for equipment and vendors. “I would suggest that when they find a


company they are comfortable with that they outfit a couple buses at first to make sure they get what they want,” Watkins says. “Make sure they get the right cam- era angles and the right lenses to get the information they need.” ■


For more, visit our August 2011 digital edition at www.stnonline.com/go/832.


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