School buses can be an intimidating even hostile environment, especially for students who are the victims of bullying. New onboard video camera technology makes it possible to identify students who may be bullying, fighting or otherwise misbehaving. It is also possible to see what leads up to conflicts.
“We are making basic improvements and we can see acceleration through technology. This is one of the most impactful things in our industry,” said Chris Akiyama, vice president Safe Fleet’s school bus division, which includes Seon bus surveillance systems and fleet management. “This gives us the ability to pick up incidents as they occur in the passengers section of the bus. We have a camera in the middle of the bus, and it migrates from east to west. It allows us to see better and monitor behavior we would not have seen. We have changed how the cameras are mounted and the areas focused on.”
Numerous cameras available on the market allow for a 360-degree, birds-eye view to reveal what is taking place behind every high-back seat, traditionally a blind spot for drivers.
“We install more cameras and microphones on buses, and this allow us to pick up conversations that bullying is taking place,” said Akiyama. “We can see the misbehavior in the context that it is occurring. We isolate what took place. If the incident took place in the back of the bus, we can focus on the microphones and cameras and determine what took place.
“We can install cameras on the outside of the bus,” he continued. “This allows us to see the context of an event and what led up to it on the bus. We think about the technology and how it plays a role. This new smart technology allows more face recognition. The misbehavior is logged into our case management system. We can see behavior in every seat. We can install more cameras and microphones.”
Having more cameras on buses helps school leaders establish the context that led up the problems that are displayed on the bus. “We offer products like student tracking and GPS. Our video system allows us to affect change by using videos and we can pair that with seating charts and assignments,” said Akiyama.
Bus drivers can press a panic button that sends an incident report on what is happening on a bus through live stream. The information is recorded quickly and uploaded to a server. Administrators can see the context of an incident and they can also see how it played out from beginning to end.
“If a parent calls in to say his child was bullied, we can see exactly what happened,” he said. “We can record the bus location and the specific event. Because we have more cameras, we can record the conversation among the students involved.”
Voice analytics and artificial intelligence are still in development and as it improves it will be easier for schools to see what is happening on buses. Students will also know their actions are being recorded when they are on the bus.
For instance, Frisco Independent School District outside of Dallas upgraded its video surveillance system, as the ability to wirelessly downloading footage was important criteria, explained Doug Becker, the district’s transportation director.
“We have three different bus lots, so when we had a request for video footage one our employees often had to travel to one of those locations to retrieve it,” he shared. “In emergency situations or during sensitive investigations, we don’t have time to waste. That’s why we wanted a better solution that could address our needs.”
Frisco ISD chose a video system with a five-channel, high-definition mobile DVR, five interior video cameras, and wireless access. With Seon’s vMax Commander video management software, any authorized transportation staff member can log in from anywhere to schedule a download of video footage for incident investigation. The challenge was to increase driver and student safety and find an effective video surveillance system There was a need for faster response to investigations and quicker scheduling of video downloads from any location.
“We used to have one staff member whose job it was to chase videos everywhere,” Becker said. “Now this person is helping us run the fleet while there are several people who can access data from different locations if required. We don’t waste time searching for video anymore.”
With the new system, Frisco ISD can more quickly resolve complaints from parents. In a bullying situation on a bus, the transportation staff can find the video footage and provide evidence in minutes and there is seamless implementation. “We had a very aggressive schedule with the implementation of video surveillance equipment on 250 buses in 10 weeks,” Becker said.
Plus, bus drivers can be trained to deal with school bus bullies. “We have driver awareness training, and we use video cameras to determine what happed. If there is a fight or a bullying incident, we can see exactly what happened,” commented Arby Creach, director of transportation services for Osceola District Schools in Florida. “We are able to identify students who may be subject to bullying based on their personalities. These students may be shy or reserved and won’t push back. Other students may be loud and brash and may bully other students. We try to place the loud and brash students away from the shy and reserved students on buses.”
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Doug Dyment, president and CEO of Gatekeeper Systems, said he has watched video technology evolve over the years. Gatekeeper offers digital video recorders, high-resolution cameras and incident management software. The latest digital video recording technology allows school administrators to review incidents in real-time among students on a bus. The company’s interior cameras offer very high resolution and feature infrared technology for precision viewing in any light condition, including no light. The cameras also include a microphone with clear audio recordings.
“Our customers can collect video records from a bus. We have software applications that manage this data. The data analytics put video on sensors and push that back to a server where they can review issues that are going on,” said Dyment.
One problem on school buses is false liability.
“We are developing algorithms so when something happens on bus such as a fight, alarms can be sent to the appropriate persons,” he added. “This can curb bullying. Using our software that is cloud-based operators can find incidents quickly so that administrators can stop behaviors.”
There are also video systems that allow cameras to provide 360-degree views and to see around blind spots. “These cameras can curb bad behavior and we can keep specific records on what is taking place on buses. It is about getting eyes on problems to increase safety,” Dyment said.
Gatekeeper’s G4 Viewer Plus Incident Management Software allows administrators to retrieve video from buses wirelessly at any time, even when buses are not in operation. The incident management software allows the synchronization of video with integrated GPS mapping, vehicle sensors, alarms, and audio so one can see incidents from every angle. It is also possible to view live-streaming video and quickly identify and respond to incidents.
Bus drivers can be trained to deal with school bus bullies. “We have driver awareness training and we use video cameras do determine what happed. If there is a fight or a bulling incident, we can see exactly what happened,” said reach. “We are able to identify students who may be subject to bullying based on their personalities. These students may be shy or reserved and won’t push back. Other students may be loud and brash and may bully other students. We try to place the loud and brash students away from the shy and reserved students on buses.”
He added safety is the most important thing on buses. If a fight breaks out, a driver is expected to pull over on the side of the road. The driver can intervene if he feels it is safe to do so. However, the driver feels threatened or unsafe in breaking up a fight, he or she can call for help. “I don’t expect a driver to stop two high school seniors from fighting. I would ask the driver to get the other kids away from the fight and call for help,” said Creach.
Edward Flavin, spokesperson for school bus contractor National Express, said the prevention of bullying is always a concern. “We work in lockstep with our customers to ensure that “safety first” behavior is exhibited while onboard our vehicles. We also work with them to ensure that bullying will not be tolerated at any time. If we receive any cases involving bullying, we report them to our customer, and they deal with the situation swiftly,” said Flavin.