Transportation professionals at the TSD Virtual conference agreed that both interior and exterior school bus cameras have unique and invaluable functions in the transportation of students with special needs.
On Nov. 9, technology provider REI presented a roundtable with three transportation directors on the various benefits of bus camera systems.
Cameras can help all districts in various ways and will only get more important the farther we get into the 21st century, stated Anthony Shields, assistant transportation director for Hays Consolidated Independent School District near Austin, Texas.
Transportation Director Diana Mikelski from Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Illinois, agreed that camera systems have a wide range of uses.
“We find it an invaluable tool which protects both students and drivers in incident investigation and response,” added Maureen Cosyn Heath, the chief administration officer at Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services, in the session chat.
“It’s hard to argue when there is video to back it up,” replied Char Timothy, student transportation supervisor at North Dakota’s Minot School District 1.
Shields agreed with an observation made by Transportation Director Zada Stamper from Laurel Public Schools in Montana that cameras show what actually happened and remove emotions from the situation.
“In the midst of an accident or other emergency situation, you are focused on the students involved; with video we can go back and really look at the whole picture, especially events leading up to the incident,” commented Jessica Singleton, routing coordinator at Stafford County Public Schools in Virginia.
Transportation Assistant Rebecka Bibaud shared that Concord School District in New Hampshire just got REI camera systems in its fleet a few months ago.
“The software is easy to use and the video is so clear! We’ve already used it for a student conflict, many unfounded complaints and some founded ones and contact tracing,” she said in the comments.
Transportation Secretary and Router Jessica Smith, a transportation secretary and router for Indiana’s Shelbyville Central Schools, stated in the chat that cameras have been helpful in getting a clear picture of what happened when there are incidents on the bus, as well as in safeguarding the drivers and students.
Extra Care for Students With Special Needs
Stamper commented in the chat that cameras are a tool her team uses to identify non-verbal students who may need extra help.
Similarly, Director of Transportation Tyreese Stafford from Illinois’ Bellwood School District 88 commented that cameras allow his team to monitor and upgrade the environment and condition of the students.
“Video is very important,” commented Tammy Parker, ESS transportation training and compliance specialist for Dysart Unified School District in Arizona. “I work with special needs behavior on the bus. When I ride, the students do not act the same. That makes the cameras vital for me.”
Mikelski stated that cameras help track how students interact with the driver and other students.
A Driver Training Tool
Attendees also agreed with Shields that cameras can provide training opportunities for school bus drivers. Filiberto “Fili” Bonilla, director of transportation at Hays CISD, added that it’s important to not only correct improper behavior but also to praise what drivers do doing right.
“We never want to look back and see we messed up, but it allows us to watch in real time how events were handled and then set training accordingly,” Rebecca Sykes, director of transportation for Sargent School District RE-33J in Colorado, pointed out in the comments.
Paula Allen, who is a driver trainer for Campbell County Schools in Kentucky and has 20-plus years driving and training in the special needs field, said in the chat that she cannot imagine going out on a route without a camera to have her back.
REI Territory Manager William Simmonds noted that REI cameras can also help with COVID-19 contact tracing and capturing stop-arm violations. The company’s exterior camera solutions capture stop arm violations with clear pictures of offenders’ license plates.
When such video needs to be reviewed, Mikelski said that downloading and sharing the video is easily handled. If video is to be used for staff training purposes, REI offers the ability to blur out student faces for privacy.
Shields confirmed that the REI system offers a user-friendly interface, while both Mikelski and Bonilla said they appreciate the REI reps and the support they provide.
In a Nov. 10 Product Showcase focused on building a safer environment inside and outside of the school bus, REI Territory Manager Taylor Moore explained that the company builds and tests its hardware to be durable and long-lasting and makes quality software to complement it.
Several attendees commented on the clear picture that can be seen on the interior camera views, as demonstrated by a video shown during the presentation.
“I cannot believe the quality of the video [cameras],” said Special Needs Coordinator Emily LePore from Prince William Public Schools in Virginia. The cameras offer clear views down to the display on a student’s phone.
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The cloud-based ARMOR Insight system allows transportation staff to streamline fleet operations as well as have access to visual reports and analysis information, which they can easily share with district administration or law enforcement as needed. This system can also be used for COVID-19 contact tracing as it shows students’ seating locations on the bus as well as who they have been in contact with.
REI representatives said the company understands the need for reliable customer service and is available for emergencies, even on weekends. REI also partners with Wi-Fi provider Kajeet, stop-arm enforcement solution provider Verra Mobility, and the Mobileye collision avoidance system.