School board should approve bus cameras

Bring on the cameras.

The Beaufort County Board of Education might vote next week to place cameras in school buses in hopes of reducing bullying.

The school district staff recommended this week that three cameras be installed on each bus. The board is to vote on the recommendation during a specially-called meeting Tuesday.

The cost for cameras that record audio and video on each of the nearly 180 buses the school district uses would be $65,000 to $75,000 this year, and $96,000 per year thereafter. The district would lease the cameras through Durham School Services, which operates buses in the district. The state, which owns most buses, has granted permission for the cameras.

This is a reasonable expense if it reduces bullying and other bad behavior on buses. Sixty-percent of districts statewide use cameras on buses, which signals hope that they can make a difference.

One board member expressed concern that this is a knee-jerk reaction to isolated complaints. But it is something the school district has studied for some time. It was a topic of research last school year, if not before.

If the board approves the cameras on Tuesday, they will be on board buses by Thanksgiving. Enough has been said about this. It is time to act.

The cameras cannot be expected to wipe out bad behavior.

But they should enable the schools to better document what happens on a bus. That should enable principals to take stronger action, and no longer be dependent on the conflicting word of middle school or elementary school students.

In that way, the cameras should act as a deterrent to bad behavior.

But nothing will happen if school administrators don't make it a priority. They should make random checks of the video, even when no complaint is waged. And they should use video to rid the buses of repeat offenders.

If the school board approves the cameras, the school district should communicate with parents immediately, spelling out specifically what behaviors will not be tolerated on buses, and what will happen each time a student is caught breaking the rules.

Parents must accept that the cameras can prove their perfect child is not so perfect after all. They must support the schools in rooting out bullying on school buses.

Bring on the cameras.