Creating a Comprehensive School Bus Video Policy

on May 29, 2019

Purchasing a camera system for your buses? Read our latest blog post on why you need a comprehensive video policy to go with your new systems.

The use of video surveillance on school property has grown each year, and that trend doesn’t look to be slowing anytime soon.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 80 percent of public schools in the United States used security cameras to monitor students during the 2015-16 school year. The use of security cameras extends past the building premises, as the use of video recording systems on school buses continues to increase as part of that overall trend.

With schools utilizing video recording systems to improve safety for students and bus drivers alike, many schools are finding out the hard way that simply purchasing video recording systems for their buses isn’t enough.

In order to get the most of your video recording systems – and also avoid potential lawsuits and privacy complaints – it’s vital to craft a clear and comprehensive school bus video policy to ensure your school bus camera system program is as successful as can be.

So what are some things you need to consider when drafting your school bus video policy? Here are a few key areas that need to be addressed:

Security & Privacy

School bus camera systems can be an excellent solution for several security issues on your school buses. But the recorded footage can contain sensitive information, which results in the need for a policy that balances both the need for security and respecting the right to privacy for both students and drivers.

The first step to crafting a stellar video surveillance policy is being aware of the rights of those recorded. Before you get started, it’s important to research the local laws (state, county, city, etc.) regarding the use of video cameras on public property.

Another key source to consult is the U.S. Department of Education’s Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). This link has a full rundown of the laws regarding the use of a photo or video of a student for educational record, including the fact that except for a few specific exclusions, a photo or video is part of an education record when it’s (1) directly related to a student; and (2) maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.

After you’ve researched the laws you need to abide by, it’s important to be as specific as possible in regards to detailing:

  • The purpose of the recorded video
  • When and where the cameras will be recording
  • Which type of recordings can be used for which specific situations
  • Who has access to footage and how the integrity of that footage is maintained
  • How footage is stored and shared

These are all key areas to address to ensure your video surveillance policy is built to increase security across your buses while also respecting the legal rights of your students and drivers.

Define Who Has Access to What

When you have sensitive information like the information captured in your recordings, it’s crucial to have a clear, defined policy for who has access to said footage and who doesn’t.

If a parent or law enforcement puts in a request for access to a recording, you need to detail exactly who will handle such requests, who has access to those recordings and how that video will be shared with the requesting parties.

Take the time to write policies for who is responsible for ensuring the system is operating correctly, who is in charge of maintaining the security of all footage, and who is responsible for protecting the confidentiality of the information captured in those recordings.

Your policy needs to clearly define how the chain-of-custody for you video is maintained to ensure the evidence you collect cannot be tampered with. Part of that can be solved by choosing a vendor that offers a video management solution that gives you complete control over how evidence is shared and maintained, such as providing the ability to manage the viewing permissions for users and the ability to generate automatic audit and usage reports that cannot be altered.

Proper Storage of Files

If you’re going to be recording footage from your buses, your policy needs to outline where and how that video will be stored.

For example, if you have an 8-camera system that’s recording for eight hours a day, that’s going to produce a lot of video data. Multiply that by, say, 30 buses, and you’re looking at a huge amount of data.

If your school has the resources on site – such as a secure server – to hold all that video, then great. If not, you will want to look at vendors that not only offer the video recording systems, but also offer a video management solutions to store that video on. Many vendors offer cloud-based solutions that let you pick subscription plans based on that amount of data you need.

Whether you store your video on your own servers or through a software solution from a vendor, take the time to do the hard research on how much video you will produce each day from these buses. This will go a long way to help you determine what kind of storage you need and how much you’ll need.

You’ll also have to define clear guidelines on how long you’ll retain certain types of video. Are you going to keep all video for a year? How long will you have to keep video of a bullying incident? How long will you need to retain footage if it’s part of a criminal investigation? How will video be deleted after a certain retention period? These are all important things you will need to clearly define in your policy.

The last thing you need is to have law enforcement come to you with a request for video for a bullying incident, and then not be able to find the video or know who did what with it.

Involve the Parents

Implementing a school bus video system policy can bring a lot of questions from parents.

How will the cameras work? Can I get a hold of any footage captured of my child? Who will have access to these videos?

To help calm any parental fears, be sure to be transparent and clear with the policies you’re putting in place and give parents fair warning that cameras will be used on your buses. A good idea would be to have an open meeting with parents to discuss the proposed policy and address any questions and concerns they have about it before officially implementing such a program.

This way, you are involving the community in your project and showing that you want to ensure that the policy is the best it can be when it comes to providing the security your buses need, while also protecting the privacy of your students and drivers.

Also, it’s a good idea to clearly mark on your buses that recording is taking place. This will help to combat any possibility of students claiming they didn’t know they were being recorded.

Conclusion

Thinking about implementing school bus video systems on your buses? Take a minute to see the Reliable, Simple, Affordable™ solutions we offer at PRO-VISION® that can help your increase safety and reduce liability in and around your buses.

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