After more than two years of planning, every Wake County school bus is finally poised to have security cameras inside to try to reduce problems caused by misbehaving students.
Crews will place surveillance cameras in 75 Wake County school buses this week with the goal of installing cameras on 740 buses by the end of June. School officials hope the $1.7 million project will cut down on discipline and bullying issues that make some students reluctant to ride and cause some drivers to quit.
“It’s going to be a big plus,” said Wake school bus driver Kendra Galloway, who watched the installation of cameras in buses Tuesday at Green Hope High School in Cary. “It’s going to eliminate a bunch of ‘he said, she said’ stuff.”
Wake began testing the use of cameras in buses in March 2015. A total of 102 buses now have cameras.
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Wanda Davis, the transportation manager for the Green Hope High district, said things have gotten better on the handful of buses she has with cameras.
“It’s cracked down on the discipline when the kids know there are cameras on the buses,” she said. “The kids know if there’s an incident we can pull it from the camera.”
The school board set aside money in November 2015 to install cameras on the remaining buses by the end of last school year. But school officials said it took more time because they wanted to make sure they picked the right company, Canadian-based Seon.
Some districts, such as Durham Public Schools, have already installed cameras in all their buses.
Seon is placing four cameras, a digital video recorder and a secure wireless connection in each bus. The cameras are supposed to provide complete coverage of the interior of the bus, including the rear area where the driver is less likely to see what’s happening.
“We know that bad kids don’t sit in the front,” said Bruce Cole, an installation manager for Seon. “That’s why the rear camera is so important.”
In addition to recording the students and driver, the new system provides vehicle data such as GPS location, speed and what signals were being used.
The cameras continuously record what’s happening, so the driver can’t stop them. But if there’s a situation, the driver can press a button that marks the section of the video to be reviewed by school officials.
The video can also be downloaded wirelessly by school officials.
The cameras come at a time when drivers have cited low pay and student misbehavior as reasons for quitting.
Galloway said there have been times during her nearly 20 years of driving a school bus when she wished she had cameras. She said the kids will probably be “petrified” at first by them.
“They’re not going to be used to seeing that camera on the bus,” Galloway said. “But actually they’ll get used to it. Either that or they’ll have to find another ride.”