Saturday October 20, 2012

POWNAL, Vt. (AP) -- A southern Vermont school district is considering putting cameras inside and outside of school buses to deter bullying and identify vehicles that fail to stop for the buses.

The Pownal School District board has included $10,000 in the current budget to buy cameras to be mounted inside its four regular buses.

Soon-to-be-released technology would allow surveillance outside the buses, too.

The Bennington Banner (http://bit.ly/Tjh831) reports that in past years the school district has dealt with significant bullying and harassment problems on its buses. The problem prompted the board to pay adults to ride the buses with the children about six years ago.

"They showed some stop arm cameras where some cars were actually going on through and you can catch their license plates and work with the local police department to look into those types of situations," Principal Todd Phillips told the board this week.

The board supported the addition of the exterior cameras.

"I know in the past we have had problems with cars driving past buses," said Chairwoman Cynthia Brownell, a former bus driver.

The camera system the district is considering won't be available for a few more months. When it does go on sale, the district will be able install eight cameras inside and out, instead of the current system that allows only four.

The entire system is estimated to cost about $13,000.

The decision was made in January to add the cameras in part to reduce a $25,750 expense to pay paraprofessionals to ride every bus in the morning and afternoon.

Phillips said he favors both the cameras and adults on every bus.

With a second adult on the bus in addition to the driver, "They're actually giving those verbal expectations of what's expected on the bus ... a camera can't replace that," he said.