Putting cameras on school buses could cut down on the number of disciplinary incidents that occur while riding to and from school, but Beaufort County school district officials say the costs may be too steep for what is such a small problem locally.
The idea of installing cameras was raised at a Board of Education meeting in early February when representatives of Durham, the company that provides bus services, and district officials gave a brief overview of the services.
When school board members asked about cutting down on misbehavior on buses, they were told video surveillance might be an option.
"You do see success with video," Terry Dingle, the district's director of support services, said. "When kids know (they're being watched), they tend not to act up as much."
School district spokesman Jim Foster said there's been some talk since February about adding cameras to the 163 buses used in the county and owned by the S.C. Department of Education.
Depending on how many cameras are on each bus, the cost could range from $190,000 to $250,000.
That might be too expensive for a lean budget, officials said.
Phyllis White, the district's chief of operations, has told the school board that about $6 million in budget cuts will be needed to keep spending flat next school year. The cuts would offset state-mandated salary increases for staff and other costs.
Cost concerns aside, misbehavior on local buses isn't a major problem, district student services chief Cynthia Hayes said.
"You've got some fights, but not an unusual number," she said. "You get disrespect: students who won't remain seated, or are noisy â€" that sort of thing."
According to district figures, only 31 of the 2,468 out-of-school suspensions in the 2010-11 school year were related to incidents on buses. Numbers for this school year aren't available because the district recently changed the software system used to record such incidents.
In the same year, students were barred from riding the bus 316 times. Those suspensions were given 194 times to elementary school students and 114 times to middle-schoolers. High-schoolers were barred from the bus only eight times.
Hayes said high-schoolers might have lower numbers because they are more likely to carpool or drive themselves to school.
The school board would have to approve the installation of cameras, Foster said.