Abington Heights students will now be recorded while riding district buses.
“Our thought is it will allow us to have better information about any type of activity that occurs on the bus and it will be something that will ultimately benefit students and drivers,” said Superintendent Michael Mahon, Ph.D.
The school board recently changed its transportation policy to authorize “the use of video and audio recording on school buses and school vehicles for disciplinary and security purposes.”
When the district bid its transportation contracts before the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, it required the bus companies to have the capability to record the rides, said Mahon. Recordings are on a cycle and will be deleted about every couple of days, he said.
In 2014, then-Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Act 9, which amended the Pennsylvania Wiretap and Electronic Surveillance Control Act.
The amendment included exceptions to allow a school district record video and audio on school buses or vehicles as long as the district meets three conditions:
• School directors had to adopt a policy to authorize the recordings for “disciplinary or security purposes.”
• Every year, the school board must notify students and parents of the policy with a mailed letter.
• The school board must post a notice on buses or in school vehicles that students may be audiotaped.
The state Department of Education does not
keep track of how many districts record video and audio on buses.
Abington Heights’ policy follows the amendment and prohibits the use of audio recording on any school bus or vehicle that is not being used for a school-related purpose.
“It’s definitely beneficial to the district and beneficial to the students of the district,” said Abington Heights Middle School Principal Marc Wyandt. “From our standpoint, the bus drivers have a difficult job; they have to drive the bus and supervise the students. That’s not an easy task.”
The recordings give administrators the opportunity to verify bus complaints or issues raised by students or parents, which may deter bad behavior, he said.
The district hasn’t had many issues with behavior and incidents on its buses, said Mahon, adding that recording the rides is a common practice.
“It’s done to protect the safety of the students and drivers,” he said.
This article originally appeared in The Times-Tribune.