Best Practices for School Bus Security and Surveillance
published on November 23, 2018 by Sonia Mastros
For many districts, onboard video camera systems represent an excellent solution to many school bus security issues. With video cameras, you can keep a close eye on the behavior of students and drivers, while always having footage available if there are disputes between drivers, students, and\or parents.
That said, video cameras can create problems of their own, particularly if students or parents are concerned about privacy. Having a clear policy outlining best practices for use of the cameras will go a long way towards preventing these problems!
Five Important Best Practices for Implementing a School Bus Security Camera Policy
1. Check Your Local and State Laws
Some states, such as California, have explicit laws outlining the usage of video cameras on public property. Individual cities or counties could potentially have relevant laws as well. Don't invest in cameras until you understand the regulatory environment.
2. Notify Parents of Your Plans
There will usually be less push back if parents have fair warning that the cameras are coming, coupled with an explanation of how they work and what rules you're putting in place regarding their use. This isn't something that should come as a surprise to parents who stay informed about district policies.
3. Have Clear Policies for Record-Keeping, Retention, and Deletion
Unless there are relevant regulations covering security video retention in your area, it will be up to you how long you keep recordings. However, this should be made into a policy which is clearly expressed and upheld. There should also be clear policies on how the video data is destroyed when the retention period is over.
4. Properly Secure Your Video Records
Bus camera footage should be treated as private information, akin to student records, only to be accessed by authorized personnel. Accordingly, the raw footage should be properly stored on a locked-down server with high security requirements for access. Think twice about keeping such footage in cloud servers - if the cloud servers were to be hacked, it could be extremely embarrassing for anyone on the cameras.
Likewise, have policies and procedures in place for handling authorized requests for access to the data, such as from law enforcement.
5. Post Notices
It's a good idea to have notices on all your buses which are visible to everyone boarding the bus that surveillance systems are in use. This protects against the edge case of a guest rider getting on the bus without being previously told about the cameras.
Security cameras can be an excellent addition to buses, as long as they're backed by policies protecting students and drivers from misuse.
How does your district handle camera-related policy? Let's talk about it in the comments below.