Thursday, March 6, 2014

Can You See Me Now?

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. 


Anonymous said...

Is "Can You See Me Know?" a pun that I am just not getting?

Larry Kelley said...

Typo. Corrected.

Anonymous said...

Please, let's not spend precious minutes debating whether young children have a "right to privacy" on a school bus.

Do we have to turn everything in this town into a debate topic?

Larry Kelley said...

Generated a bit of a discussion when the Jones Library installed security cameras.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of better things to Town could do with repair the potholes, or add staffing to the fire department and not guilt Umass into giving the "poor" Town money...just saying.

Larry Kelley said...

Geeze, just wait to you see the rest of the list.

Anonymous said...

FYI Anon 9:00 PM; There are legal issues involved in the photographing of minors without parental permission. For example, as part of a pilot program for proposed requirements for student teachers getting their master's degree and applying for certification, they were required to tape a 10 minute session teaching. This was stopped when it was protested as photographing minor students without parental consent.

Dr. Ed said...

The thing I wonder about is the audio recording -- MA is an "all parties" state -- and is it permission or notification?

I know there have been issues.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if i'm wrong, but a school bus is considered public. The students are recorded every day of their lives in public places like grocery stores, parking lots, Target, downtown Amherst cameras, the library, etc.

Anonymous said...

Prevent bullying? But this is Amherst where all colors and all races live in peace and tranquility.

About the only thing these cameras have proved beneficial for is drivers when a dispute occurs and the truth needs to be seen. It's just one of the latest technological gimmicks making the rounds these days.

Why not. At least it's not another administrator. Or will they now need someone to be school bus media administrator. Sounds like another $100k job very much needed.

The audio issue is interesting considering the state laws on audio recording would say such an audio recording is illegal as it does not have all-party consent and minors are involved. Maybe they need a disclaimer sign on entry. Wait till a court case comes up and a lawyer uses the law to throw out a case and the cameras are rendered useless.

Dr. Ed said...

Wait till a court case comes up and a lawyer uses the law to throw out a case and the cameras are rendered useless.

I've usually heard of a criminal prosecution as well -- remember that case involving the guy who recorded the state trooper?

Maria G goes to jail????

Anonymous said...

Only in your wet dreams, Ed.

KeithW said...

Hey Larry,
I've got to weigh-in on this one. I worked for an agency in Holyoke that put me in charge of the safety & security of students and crisis intervention training for staff & teachers in many of the alternative schools/programs in Hampden Co. Mostly allof the vans, busses etc there are equipped both with audio/video and the students are keenly aware of this fact. It is not a deterrent for acting-out behavior and in some cases, it actually can worsen it. Additionally, the idea that certain agencies, eg APD would need special permission to view footage is false. Practically anyone has access to viewing. What the cameras capture is useful for staff training and debriefing (all after-the-fact). The budget for funding these devices would easily pay the salaries for living, breathing bus monitors who've undergone training to recognize bullying who can intervene in the moment. This Orwellian response to bullying is a waste of $ and will do nothing to actually help kids.