Parent starts petition for school-bus cameras

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BEAUFORT

Parent starts petition for school-bus cameras

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Tuesday, August 28, 2012   |  629 Words  |  

A Beaufort parent wants cameras on school buses, and she says she has about 300 others backing her up.

Christina Chandler, whose three children attend Beaufort Elementary School, has started a petition and is calling for the Beaufort County Board of Education to install cameras on all school buses.

She says the cameras are needed to prevent students' misbehavior. Already this school year, her children have come home upset and hurt after their hour-long bus ride because they've been picked on and beaten up, she said.

"School is going well for them," she added. "It's just the bus ride."

Her neighbor Meghan Smith agrees. She says one of her two children also has had problems on the same bus.

"As soon as this year started, they were off the bus the first day, and he was saying, 'Mom, I was pushed and shoved and called rude names,' " Smith said. "They won't even tell me what he was called because it's so rude they don't want to repeat it."

Chandler said Smith and about 300 others -- neighbors, friends and coworkers -- have signed her petition."With video," she said, "you can't go wrong because it's not a he-said, she-said thing."

She doesn't believe Beaufort Elementary has solved the problem.

Mildred Glover, assistant principal at the school who has spoken with Chandler about the issues, said everything has been handled according to protocol. According to her investigation, Chandler's children were part of only one incident, and the student involved has been identified, and his parents contacted.

The bus now has assigned seats, Glover said, and the school is working to prevent problems.

Glover said she reminds students every day of proper behavior before they board the bus, but acknowledged problems sometimes occur. Aside from Chandler and Smith, only one parent has complained this year, Glover said.

Glover believes adult supervision, not cameras, would be more effective at keeping students in line.

"Eventually kids learn the camera's there, and they block the views," Glover said.

School board chairman Fred Washington said he's willing to consider proposals for better bus safety. Chandler contacted him, he said, and he encouraged her petition.

"I favor making sure that we have got order on our buses," he said. "What that means and how to accomplish that, I'm not sure."

Washington said he may form a committee to research ideas.

School district officials have considered putting cameras on buses, but decided the costs outweighed the need.

Depending on how many cameras are installed on each of the district's 150 buses, it could cost $230,000 to $257,000, district spokesman Jim Foster said.

Only 17 of the 2,159 out-of-school suspensions across the district in the 2011-12 school year stemmed from bus incidents, Foster said. That's down from 31 out of 2,468 out-of-school suspensions the previous year.

Washington said he'd be interested in looking into cameras or other options, such as volunteer bus monitors, an idea he said he pondered a few years ago.

Paid monitors could cost about $2.8 million per year, Foster said.

Chandler hopes to gather more parental support and plans to address the school board Sept. 4.

"Realistically, they should do whatever they can to help make things safer," she said.

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