No working video camera on your school bus?

A school bus without a working bus video system may have a 'nice' school bus driver behind the wheel and a foolish provider gambling that they have some sort of expertise to figure out what happened after an event. (*nice: from Latin nescius)

By James Kraemer

Photo: Shenzhen Kexing Electronics Co., Ltd.

Many of my years spent behind the wheel of a school bus included my best friend, the bus video camera ride along.

A true friend was with me for over a decade and half after suing some parents that attacked my character and damaged my relationship with my employer.

Had a camera been installed on my bus prior to some parents acting out, then perhaps a civil suit and all the years of grief involved for everyone may have been avoided, or at least shortened the conflict by several years.

Every bus in our community’s fleet is now equipped with a working camera, a budget strain that had too eventually happen after I won the largest school bus driver civil suit settlement in my state at that time.

A school bus without a working bus video system may have a fool behind the wheel and a foolish provider gambling that they have some sort of expertise to figure out what happened after an event.

Sometimes an accurate discovery might be true enough at some facilities, especially when a serious event is immediately investigated, but still lacking is the bus video evidence often necessary these days to prove who did what.

It is a fact that more than 90 percent of school bus accidents found bus driver error occurred due to the bus driver distracted by students misbehaving. When used effectively the bus camera can help put a stop to bus driver distractions from unruly student behavior interfering with the bus driver's duties and the operation of the school bus.  

At most facilities, if not at every facility, it is a foolish act not to have every school-owned vehicle that transports schoolchildren equipped with a working camera. Trying to save money with empty camera boxes is no better strategy. Cameras provide evidence, not correction.

Appeasing hostile parents or special self-interests by not installing cameras, and when installing banning audio interferes with helping keep kids safe. Read about the typical school bus driver's reward for one of the reasons most school bus drivers are so passive concerning actual child safety on their school buses.

In another story, MYFOX 9 reported that a metro bus driver is under investigation for bullying students. The family's lawyer asked that the district save the surveillance tape from that day, but the district said there was a camera box on the bus but no camera was installed that day.

Remove bullies from the bus before this happens -- one
warning with a seat change, no waiting on bus ticket
responses, off the bus and to the office until fully resolved.
~ Father of bullied teen views surveillance of school bus attack,

DISTRACTION IS DANGEROUS: Too many lives lost.

The bus camera when properly used becomes a powerful tool providing excellent evidence to the school, parents. law enforcement, and the court when needed.

We have seen the effective use of school bus videos in the news, and in the courts -- either exonerating or condemning the bus driver’s part in whatever the event.

Various studies have found that the bus driver’s version of what happened during an event is usually more accurate than what the child, other bus riders, or parents claim happened. This is so true that when no camera on board the best response may be accepting bus driver’s version of the event.

Not always the case.

Video captured from a Bedford County, Virginia, school bus surveillance camera appears to show an adult woman kicking and hitting a young boy, and the bus driver choking the child.

When investigating a complaint what is watched for on the camera can change what is determined. With only one side’s version concerning an event, such as the parent’s or child’s version, important information can be missed by a built in bias. A false accusation can be railed at the bus driver when not taking the time to first discuss the matter with the accused driver.

In the video above was the child being choked, or was the bus driver adjusting the harness?

One day toward the end of my retirement driving school bus, I came into a bus loading area where field trip and home-to-school buses arrived together creating a chaotic bus parking area at that school. Students were being crossed in the parking area between the buses, a risk activity not usually allowed.

With no where to shut down and board students I decided to carefully proceed to an old bus garage area beyond the current bus loading/departing area, turn the bus around in that protected area, then proceed to park, then board students.

The reports to my transportation director was that I’d backed and turned the bus around in the bus loading area, illegal in many states.

None of the drivers appeared aware of the old bus garage and a protected fenced in area where a turn-a-round is not illegal. Only after discussion with the TD and after a second viewing was it realized that I had not tuned the bus around amongst the school buses.

The lessons here may suggest what is viewed on a video can be influenced by false assumptions made prior to viewing the video. The accused bus driver can make a false assumption as well. The rumor mill that resulted from my event could have been intervened in before spreading had I simply radioed in what I was doing before doing it.

Frederick News Post
 School bus drivers must focus on the riders outside the bus at school bus stops. The idea of drivers attempting to ID motorists and get plate numbers is an unsafe practice that ought to be prohibited. More lives can be saved at bus stops by keeping the bus driver's focus on the kids behavior inside and outside the bus. Install a bus stop sign camera where wanting to ID motorists disobeying the school bus stop law.

School bus drivers can not control what motorists choose to do anyway, but can control what they are doing themselves, including better training, better communications, better tools, improved rider behavior enforcement, and school and parents support at bus stops. What the bus riders are doing on the bus, as well as outside the bus, and especially while crossing the road can be enforced and gain the benefit of reducing injuries and saving lives.

School bus cameras have dropped in price to the point they are more affordable now with all sorts of new features included, such as multiple camera ports, a GPS port, DVR technology, flash drive video downloads, and other features such as video marking and clip editors. The day of the expensive and unreliable VCR bus recorder is fast going the way of its home consumer companions.

Cameras for temporary use, covering spot checking situations, such as the behavior of riders crossing the road at bus stops are becoming incredibly cheap. Bought one myself on eBay for $7.99 that actually works quite well.

These cheap keychain cameras can now record Hi-Def video and audio but uses a lot of memory. An 8gb mini flash drive card, in normal mode provides hours of recordings. Normal definition is not adequate for reading license plates, but myself would want bus drivers more interested in monitoring bus rider activity while crossing the road. Install a stop arm camera for motorists.

This small low-profile recorder can is easily attached to a dash board with Velcro, is self powered for about two hours, or with the built-in USP port can accept power from a bus tap, such a 5-volt adapter plugged into a cigarette lighter port.

Police are now using body cameras to video and voice record evidence during traffic stops, crime scene investigations, and field interviews, much to the annoyance of the ACLU and other special interests. An inexpensive version, an eyeware glasses camera, is available on eBay for around $20.00.

There is potential for misuse of these cameras and their videos, especially at hostile workplaces. Avoid use of a personal camera on the school bus without permission to do so. What may have seemed reasonable use at the time can become very complicated, even when the court may eventually determine use was acceptable when used during the specific commission of a crime. We’ll look at this anomaly as it comes up in later articles.

Although the primary use of the school bus video system is to monitor the environment inside the bus, they have also been useful in helping determine the causes of accidents and injuries, displaying real life events inside the bus during a crash and also during normal bus operation. Bus cameras may have contributed to the increased popularity of installing seat belts on school buses.

Higher quality for lower cost is encouraging more school districts across the county to install cameras on their school buses. State laws favoring the devices has also helped to promote their use, and regardless of special interests concerns about the potential for invading student privacy.

Where is there any student privacy aboard the school bus except for personal belongings?  If any privacy exists at all does it outweigh the criminal behaviors that happen on school buses?

Use has not been an issue in other public areas, such as banks, stores and just about everywhere else. Why would the school bus public environment be any different?

There is no difference, in my opinion, since school bus video cameras in and outside the bus are not directed at any specific person but record all that goes on in their environment.

The school bus camera is a true best friend to the civil when it comes to stopping violence aboard the school buses and also helping to end violations at bus stops.   

References and Notes

Teen allegedly bullied before TV interview about bullying - Here again, bullying alive, in the open, and not just in front of school bus cameras, but even in front of a TV camera. Cameras provide evidence, not correction. Design a no-nonsense immediate approach to intervention.
Bus video goes beyond student monitoring - Today’s surveillance systems not only record students on multiple channels, many record risky driving behavior, issue alerts for specific events and track buses through GPS. Here are details on these and other specifications from eight companies’ offerings.
Bus stop arm enforcement  - Georgia leads the nation in school bus fatalities, with nearly a dozen children killed in the past five years. While some special self-interests fight these safety devices, more providers are adding these evidence gathering tools.
Maryland School Buses to Snap Photos of Vehicles That Don’t Stop - WJZ (via CBS Local) reports the buses rolling through Frederick County this school year are the first in the state’s CrossSafe program.
Arizona firm puts cameras on school buses in some states - The Valley company, which provides red-light camera systems, is now putting its technology on school buses in an attempt to prevent cars from passing them when they're picking up and dropping off kids. Seven states passed laws in 2011 to allow cameras on school buses...
Safety Vision, Blue Bird partner to sell stop-arm camera - Safety Vision has formed an exclusive agreement with Blue Bird to resell a stand-alone, high-definition stop-arm camera system into the aftermarket through Blue Bird’s North American dealer network.


  1. I have 5 digital cameras on my bus. My high schoolers are civil and easy to get along with and any behavior that is out of line would probably be noticed when viewing the tapes. My elementary kids... someone should show a typical day with a bus full of them to people who are quick to blame drivers for preventable mishaps. My point is that most people would be shocked to see the utter chaos in a school bus full of elementary kids. I am a relatively new driver, been doing it now about 6 weeks. I am personally shocked at the utter chaos regarding the behavior of elementary kids. I am getting better at managing them but I have to say that the possibility that I could get distracted and get in an accident is very high. Much more distracting than you can possibly imagine. This is a very hard job, much more difficult than it looks.

    1. Very well stated. People need to know that a lot more is involved than just driving the school bus. The industry does a poor job of communicating that fact, so much so it seems more deliberate avoidance than lack of awareness. Thank you for posting. ~ James

  2. I have been a school bus driver since 2002! When I first started all of the buses had VCR's, most where just empty boxes. Now every bus in our fleet has at least 6 cameras in an 89 passenger bus, and 5 in a 65, all digital! These cameras have became my best friend at times. The cameras catch all of the bad behavior of the students on the bus and that of parents that stand outside of the bus and harass and curse at us drivers. I don't fear the cameras because I do my job!

    1. Very glad to read your post. More support from parents and schools has been needed for sometime now, the cameras help fill in the gaps. Sad how dysfuctional some school boards are at helping their bus drivers keep kids safe. Sounds like you have good support from staff. ~ James

  3. I don't think money should be an issue for private institutions. Besides, there are CCTV Camera Companies who sells surveillance technology for a whole-sale price. That means that it will be sold for a discounted price.

  4. video monitoring va-Blueline is composed of four divisions: Uniformed Division (armed or unarmed), Executive Protection Division, Security Guard Training and Education Division, and Commercial Services. Depending on the needs of our clients, personnel from any one of these divisions can be utilized to address their security needs.

  5. My son was accused of something on the bus and I was told the hard drive was broken and all of the footage is lost from that day is this something that happens often? and how can the hard drive break?

  6. I know a couple who had sex on the bus when they went off duty. The footage from the video was shown around the office because the management team includes the guy's ex-girlfriend who is So lonely and jealous that she had to get back at him because he didn't want her anymore! this is not only an abuse of technology, but an abuse of power, and I would like to know what can be done about it?

    1. The couple should file a lawsuit using a Civil Rights Attorney. There are many Civil Rights laws being abused here. The couple has a right to privacy while engaging in consensual sex, though the bus may be deemed a public place. However, the right to privacy overrides where the sex took place. This could be worth millions and the office personnel and company will be paying for it! SUE the idiots!

  7. how would one get a hard copy off a video for a specific day and time..does the camera company provide that or the school?



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