The DeKalb County Board of Education is considering installing cameras on school buses to catch motorists behaving recklessly.
The issue was discussed briefly during Thursday night's regular monthly school board meeting.
The cameras automatically record when the buses activate their stop signs. Or, the school system could choose to have the cameras operate manually allowing bus drivers to push a panic button to activate them. The goal is to catch motorists who drive around school buses while the buses are picking up or dropping off students. Failure to stop for a school bus is a traffic violation in Tennessee. The cameras record what's happening around the bus, so police don't have to rely on bus drivers to provide descriptions of rule-breakers.
"One is a manual system that drivers would use when they pull up to a stop and they see traffic is not going to stop. They can push a panic button which automatically turns the cameras on and we can catch all the images. Or there is another system that is quite pricey but it is all automated. When the stop sign is deployed, it all comes on," said Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague. "In my opinion the panic button is probably the better bang for the buck. I am still waiting on confirmation within state laws if this would stand in a court of law where we could prosecute somebody. I've researched this and found that other states, Georgia, Alabama, and Indiana use them (camera systems) and get good results. They've cut their stop arm issues by 60%. Right now in order to fill out a report (on a violator) and send it to the state you must have a tag number. Usually when this issue comes about it happens so quickly and the car goes by the bus (so fast) you don't have a chance to get a tag number. Sometimes they'll catch up with a car at a stop light and get a tag number then and I can fill out my report and send it to the state. As of today I have sent twenty nine reports to the state where I have caught and my drivers have caught (violators) on the routes," said Sprague.
Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III said school bus safety is a serious concern. "I've seen some of this first hand. I actually saw what turned out to be almost an accident with a special education bus just yesterday (Wednesday) when someone turned in front of it. We have issues where when these stop signs go out (stop arms on buses) and these buses stop there is a period of time in state law that says when the flashing lights come on and the stop sign comes out, that means (motorists) stop. It's a matter of the general public, when they're driving down the road, especially down a five lane highway paying close attention. Consider if this were your child getting off that bus would you pay more attention? There have been a few citations written. I'm not in favor of writing a lot of citations but I am in favor of giving fair warning. In discussing this matter, I hope that people will start abiding by (the law and take into consideration) that there are upwards of 90 children and teenagers on these buses and getting them to school safely and getting them home safely is of utmost importance. We have 3,000 students in this school system and 2,000 of them ride the bus. I hope the general public will understand it," said Evins.
No action was taken Thursday night. If a system is purchased, the school board may elect to obtain only one camera system initially and use it on more than one bus. By rotating its use among buses in the fleet, motorists would not know which bus is equipped with the device on any given day.
In other business, Board Chairman Evins gave the Director of Schools monthly update on personnel on behalf of Director Mark Willoughby who was unable to attend due to sickness in his family.
Cynthia Taylor has been employed as a bookkeeper. Shea Wiegele, a teacher at DCHS, has been granted a leave as requested.
Jacqueline Michelle Overstreet has been transferred from a substitute to an educational assistant position. Elaine Davis, bus driver has resigned.