Lights, cameras, action
Amherst Public School buses and vans will become more secure next year if the Joint Capital Planning Committee approves the $54,000 request made this morning by Ron Bohonowicz, Direct or Facilities, for a digital camera system to outfit 9 buses and 14 vans owned by the School Department.
Each vehicle would be outfitted with three cameras: one on the driver, one on the stair entry/exit to the vehicle and one showing the entire back passenger section. A 4th camera could also be added in the future to show outside the bus to record cars that don't stop when the school bus stops.
The units are equipped to record both audio and video, but would only be reviewed if there was a reported problem. Even the police would need permission of Superintendent Maria Geryk to review a recording.
The cameras would help reduce instances of bullying. South Hadley, made notorious over bullying, installed them a while back, and according to Bohonowicz it "substantially improved the situation."
Bohonowicz also told the committee the contract for the company that provides the other 31 buses used to transport school children is up next year, and he may write into a new contract the provision that all buses be camera equipped.
If the JCPC approves the $54,000 request it still must pass muster with the Town Manager and then Town Meeting before the money could be spent in the new Fiscal Year starting July 1st.
Interestingly the two School Committee members in the JCPC said their Committee had not yet discussed the "policy question" of having cameras recording the actions of minor children.