In this file photo, Christina Chandler, a Beaufort resident and parent to three children at Beaufort Elementary School, stands in front of a bus at Beaufort Elementary School. Chandler has started a petition to get cameras placed on school buses to bullying on the buses.(Photo: Delayna Earley, The Beaufort Gazette)
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The Beaufort County Board of Education could vote to add cameras to school buses at a special meeting next week.
On Tuesday night, district staff recommended that three cameras be installed on each of the nearly 180 buses used in the district. The cameras, which can record both audio and video, would capture a view of the inside of the bus -- front to back, back to front, and a panoramic view of the middle.
The recommendation to install the cameras comes after a Beaufort mother circulated a petition to have them added in order to stop what she called bullying during bus rides. Christina Chandler has said her three children have been bullied on the bus to and from Beaufort Elementary School. Monday, she filled a lawsuit against the school district seeking immediate changes to stop her children from being picked on.
Chandler's concerns prompted the formation of a committee to look into the issue. In response to that committee's direction, Gregory McCord, the district's director of student services, told the school board Tuesday that the cameras would cost from $65,000 to $75,000 this year, and $96,000 a year thereafter. The district could lease the cameras at a per day rate through Durham School Services, which operates buses in the district.
The district has already received approval from the S.C. Department of Education, which owns most of the buses, to install the cameras. About 60 percent of districts in the state already use them, McCord said.
Some board members expressed concern that although safety is important, installing the cameras could be a knee-jerk reaction to one incident.
"I'm all for safety," board member Laura Bush said. "What I have reservations about is that it appears we're looking at one incident, and we're taking this districtwide."
Bush said she believed there could be other problems, but wanted to see more evidence before making up her mind.
McCord said 22 incidents of fighting, hitting or other inappropriate contact had been documented across the district since school began in August, noting that's a low percentage given the number of students who ride the bus each day.
The board could vote on the issue at a specially called meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Helena Elementary School. If approved, the cameras could be installed by the end of November, McCord said.
- Mom who wants bus cameras sues Beaufort County School District, bus company; Sept. 17, 2012
- Beaufort school administrators: More research sought on school bus video cameras; Sept. 12, 2012
- School board committee to consider bus cameras; Sept. 9, 2012
- Parent starts petition for school-bus cameras; Aug. 28, 2012