OPINION: JCPS bus discipline not accountable


by H. Michael Miley

Peter Champelli

by H. Michael Miley
Photo by H. Michael Miley

In Oct. 2012, the JCPS school board decided to spend roughly $2 million to add bus cameras to 1,150 school buses in order to “reduce bullying and improve safety,” according to an article written by Toni Konz, education writer for the Courier Journal. This decision most likely sprouted from the recorded 8,991 bus referrals from the 2012-’13 school year.

These cameras have a feed that goes to a hard drive; however these tapes are not viewed, let alone at the time of a possible crime. One possible solution to finding the effectiveness of these cameras would be to look at bus referrals before and after this plan and see if the numbers went down; but this was impractical.

Mr. Darryl Farmer (Assistant Principal) claimed that bus referrals were often not recorded. Instead, they were placed together with individual schools’ regular referrals and kept in a bin.

Teddy Gordon, a Louisville lawyer known for filing lawsuits against JCPS, comments: “In my opinion, the bus cameras were installed to protect JCPS from liability from lawsuits that I file against them and to ascertain who is the guilty party after the fact for fights, assaults, and injuries that occur on the buses.”

Some lawsuits he has filed against the JCPS administration include the incident of sexual assault on a JCPS bus in 2012. “The cameras were actually on that day and recorded what you could see of the assault. More frightening was our client, screaming for help; which is clearly discernible on the tape. The recording went on a DVD. The bus driver did nothing,” Gordon said. “Cameras were beneficial as to identifying the criminals, but did not prevent the horrific assault.”

Many JCPS and Manual administrators agree with Gordon on his point that the cameras were installed to protect JCPS rather than to reduce bullying.

“Part of the effectiveness of cameras is eliminating ‘he said, she said’ scenarios that can result in wasted staff and student time revolving around investigations and possibly the disciplining of the wrong student,” JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey said. “I don’t believe anyone in the school transportation world would tell you that cameras were put on buses solely to prevent bad behavior.”

However, according to Konz in an article in the Courier Journal, cutting down on bullying is one of the main goals. While eliminating scenarios stated by Jackey are a valid reason, reducing bullying is the solution that is best for JCPS students and parents – and this solution cannot be tracked due to the unorganized nature of the bus referrals. Administrators at other JCPS high schools declined to explain their bus referrals’ organization.

Some of the ideal effective solutions to this financial and safety issue include requiring JCPS schools to keep an organized, cumulative record of bus referrals or requiring the Department of Transportation to do so.

“To effectuate change, there should be a land base feed from the cameras which is monitored the entire time students are on the bus going to and from school,” Gordon said.