Boston school district rethinks plan to activate microphones on buses

September 5, 2014

Kyle Olson Kyle Olson

Kyle founded Education Action Group in 2007.
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BOSTON – Boston Public Schools is equipping its bus fleet with cameras to monitor student behavior, but is insisting the microphones will be “turned off.”

eavesdropping-dangerThe Boston Globe reported in July:

Boston is equipping all of its 750 school buses with cameras and microphones, enabling school officials to more thoroughly investigate reports of bullying, other disciplinary issues, and even traffic accidents.

Each bus will be equipped with two cameras contained in a single unit mounted to the ceiling. One camera will point to the passenger area. The other will be directed at the windshield and will record what the driver sees on the road, providing potentially useful information in case of an accident.

Carl Allen, the School Department’s transportation director, said no single incident prompted the high-tech monitoring.

“It’s just a recognition that there are incidents and accidents that occur every year,” Allen said. “And we have a strong desire to have more data so we can more quickly respond and ensure the safety of our kids and employees.”

“Cameras will record activity on board buses but the recordings will only be stored for a short period,” the school district tells parents on its website. It doesn’t define a “short period.”

Parents raised objections, claiming recording conversations on school buses would violate students’ privacy.

As a result, the school district reportedly will only record “images” and not “sound” as students travel to and from school.

“If we decide there is value in audio, we will bring the issue before the School Committee and develop a policy to ensure student privacy,” Lee McGuire, a School Department spokesman tells the Globe.

“Audio recording would only be enabled after the development of a policy with community input,” the district adds on its site.

The reversal comes as numerous students were stranded on the first day of school.

The district would give “no guarantee” that students could depend on bus transportation Tuesday morning – the second day.

“Families should prepare alternate arrangements to bring students to and from school Tuesday if necessary,” district superintendent John McDonough said in a statement Monday night, WBZ reported.

“This ongoing uncertainty is unacceptable to us and is unacceptable to our students and families, who count on having a reliable ride to school.”

 

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