New security cameras on school buses prove useful for resolving conflicts

By the fall, school buses in all counties will come with new safety upgrades.

These improvements include a GPS tracker, route-planning software, and security cameras.

This month, the Hawaii Department of Education awarded new contracts for Maui and Kauai counties. Cameras are already on buses on Oahu and Hawaii Island.

We wanted to know if security cameras on school buses are already making a difference, and who is allowed to watch the footage.

The DOE says there has to be a special request made to release the video.

School officials say they’ve already had a number of incidents where the footage was used by school administrations to look into student behavior on the bus. In the past, they’ve had to interview other students to find out what really happened.

For Akita Enterprises, one of the school bus contractors on Kauai, having cameras on board adds an extra layer of accountability.

“If there is a problem in the buses, whatever is captured in the data would be proof that the event happened in the bus. That is also to protect the students as well as our drivers,” said Josie Aurelio of Akita Enterprises.

There are 685 school buses and at least three cameras on each bus. Each camera records visuals in high definition and in color.

We wanted to know when the cameras start and stop recording, how long it records for, and how long the DOE keeps the footage, but a department spokeswoman said she couldn’t answer those questions because it would jeopardize the DOE’s security measures.

The DOE said only school administrators have access to the footage if there’s a specific complaint. Law enforcement can request footage with a subpoena.

School officials say no one else has authority to view the footage, not even bus drivers.

“We are not allowed to access the data that will be stored in the cameras, because the equipment is the property of us, the contractor, and the data is the property of the Department of Education,” said Aurelio.

We asked if parents were able to view what’s caught on camera, and a DOE spokeswoman said they’d have to go through school administration.

The upgrades are part of the State’s “Get on Board” initiative to improve the health and safety of students.

These upgrades are new requirements in the contracts with school bus companies, and does not impact the price of the bus fare, which is still a $1.25 per ride.

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