LOVINGTON — Better stop misbehaving on school buses Loving-ton students — there’s a good chance you’re going to get caught.
Lovington Municipal Schools Transport Manager Dwayne Thornhill gave a report to the Lovington School Board Tuesday that five cameras were installed in each of the 19 yellow school route buses and two cameras were installed in each of the six activity buses.
Thornhill said behavioral problems made the project necessary because of student misconduct like writing on bus seats and using unacceptable language. At a cost of around $80,000, the cameras have already been an essential tool for keeping students in line, he said.
“When you get two kids in the backseat that are having a conversation that isn’t very wholesome, you pull them (out of class) and say, ‘Hey I want to show you something,’” said Thornhill. “I let them know, ‘We can hear everything you say on the bus,’ and they just hang their head.”
Thornhill said the project started three months ago. Each surveillance system includes audio and a clear picture of students. They also have other features that can obscure faces to protect the privacy of other students. The surveillance system also monitors any possible mechanical failures on the bus and gives a view of each bus route. Thornhill said a live view of the bus isn’t monitored continually but video footage is reviewed when there is a problem on the bus.
The project was necessary after Lovington took over school transportation services earlier this year buying all the buses from a private contractor that previously provided the service, said Lovington School Board President Greg Maxie. Purchasing the buses gave student transportation more flexibility, without the for-profit incentive, he said.
“We don’t want to profit off of services to children,” Maxie said.
The Lovington School District has an average of 2,360 students eligible under state and federal standards to ride the bus.
Thornhill said since the cameras have been installed school personnel have reviewed footage of several undesirable incidents, including a student setting his school lanyard on fire. From surveillance, staff identified the student who gave his peer a lighter, the necessary means of committing the act of arson. Another student was caught on video stealing a cell phone.
The cameras also give a view of the bus driver and the front door which Thornhill said could help a bus driver in a liability situation.
“If someone said, ‘They touched me inappropriately,’ we can see where the driver’s hands are,” Thornhill said. “Hopefully we won’t ever have that issue, but this day and time we live in, you never know.”
Thornhill said before the project was facilitated, there were two cameras in some of the buses and many of the cameras were inoperable. The district utilizes one vendor, Radio Engineering Industries, Inc., for the new surveillance system.
Before he became a bus driver and manager in Lovington, Thornhill was a bus driver for Diboll Independent School District in Texas. He said the surveillance system there is similar to the one implemented in Lovington.
Thornhill said he’s worked collaboratively with Lovington IT Director Michael Rutledge to ensure cameras are functioning properly at all times.
“We got a few bugs we’re still working on,” Thornhill said during his presentation.
In other school district news, Lovington schools has a mobile food option for students. Lovington is the first district in New Mexico to have a food truck on campus. The truck will be used at Lovington High School and for various academic-related events.