ONLY ON KOLD: Danger on board - Tucson News Now

ONLY ON KOLD: Danger on board

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Get ready to share the road with tens of thousands of students heading back to class Thursday. Hundreds of bus drivers have been practicing for the big day in Tucson Unified School District.

But a driver said that cameras are no substitute for an extra person called a monitor in order to keep students under control.

Bus monitors only ride the buses that carry special needs students or just have a lot of students.

All buses have cameras. But drivers say having that person can prevent problems instead of just recording them.

The video scenes of school bus fights from across the country, even in Arizona, worry veteran school bus drivers.

"A child could run out in front of the bus, a dog, something like that, we would be easily distracted,” said Susan Neal, who has been a school bus driver for ten years.

Besides being dangerous, misbehavior forces bus drivers to pull over, which makes students late.

"On the last day of school last year I had no monitor and I had, like, a stink bomb on the bus and it really held us up. For about a half an hour, we were late,” Neal said.

A monitor is a drivers' helping hand. TUSD has 270 routes, and 90 of them have monitors. They're usually for special needs students.

"I think every bus should have one, because, no matter what, kids are kids are kids. They're going to fight, they're going to play around,” said Cecilia Paredes, who has been a school bus monitor for 14 years.

Past budget cuts have worried her about the future of her job. And she said that technology, like cameras on buses, can't replace people.

"Cameras can only do so much. They can't stop a fight,” Paredes said.

All of TUSD's busses are equipped with cameras and students who are caught misbehaving face discipline, which is expected to discourage other students from being disruptive.

"We find that when action is taken by school administration, for inappropriate conduct on a school bus, it sends a message to the other students,” said TUSD safety and training director Ricardo Montano.

The cameras record from the moment the bus starts, which provides a record of anything that happened.

Districts ranging from Vail to Sunnyside use cameras, and only place monitors on special needs' routes.

For 48 routes, Vail has 18 monitors. Other districts as well as TUSD said that they simply don't have the money to put a monitor on every bus.

"I think it's a good combination of both. But we have cameras on our busses which help a lot and allow us to go back and review what's happened, and, also, the students know they're on there,” said TUSD director of transportation Mike Johnson.

"It deters them from more than what they would normally do without it,” Neal said.

But often videos of fights on buses come from buses with cameras. Neal said that students get used to cameras, and then get brave. She said that monitors like Paredes are more effective.

"I like to see them get home safely. Just as long as I, I tell them, as long as I don't see a nick, cut, scrape, that's the way I want to see them leave,” Paredes said and laughed.

"Even if we can't really afford them, we actually need them,” Neal said.

For more information, click here: http://www.tusd1.org/contents/depart/transportation/index.html

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.
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