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Students’ reaction mixed over school bus surveillance cameras

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A good safety idea or a colossal waste of money? Students at Fort Frances High School appear split on the public school board’s latest initiative to install security cameras on its buses.

Trustees made the decision at the board’s regular meeting here last week. Chair Gord McBride said the cameras were there as an additional safety measure, noting bus drivers need to focus their attention on the road, not to stop fights on board.

“There’s too much horsing around on buses," said Reg King of Emo. ”It’s meant for transportation—not horsing around.

“Bus drivers try their best [but] the bus driver can’t be watching things all the time,” he added.

King said he’s seen everything from spitballs to fights happen on the school bus. Pat Angus, a bus student from Crozier, said he’s also seen vandalism—not to mention the occasional pyromaniac lighting a fire in the garbage can in the back.

“A lot of stuff that happens on the bus is crazy," he said. "I’m not sure if [cameras] are needed but it’s not a bad idea.”

The plan the school board has is to equip each bus with a black box where a camera can be placed. But the black box will be empty much of the time as only a few cameras will be shared among the entire bus fleet.

The catch is the students won’t know if the camera has been put there or not.

Even though each bus is not getting its own camera, the proposal still will cost the board several thousand dollars—dollars some students said are being wasted.

“There are bigger better things they could do," said grade 12 student Shawn Galusha of Barwick. ”They shouldn’t spend that money just to catch people throwing things around.

“What’s so bad that’s happening on the bus they need security cameras? Nothing,” he said.

“It ticks me off,” echoed Briana Boldero of Fort Frances, also a senior.

“It’s taking more money from school taxes and wasting it," she said. "It won’t have any effect. If people are going to do bad things on a bus, they’ll hide it.”

But senior student Kate McLean of Devlin thinks it will have an effect.

“Students will calm down—if they did anything to begin with,” she said, noting the threat of a camera may have a big effect on primary students, effectively stopping school bus vandalism and rowdy behaviour at a much younger age.

“I don’t really see a bad side to it,” she added.

But that same threat of a camera McLean saw as a benefit was a liability for Galusha.

“It would probably make people more uncomfortable," he retorted. "Like they’re being watched.”

Even some camera supporters like Angus agreed having “Big Brother” watching will make quite a few people nervous.

“I don’t like to be watched," he said. "It’s not that I’m doing anything wrong but it would just be weird.”

But McLean believed people will just get used to it in time.

“If they’re not doing anything wrong, the camera shouldn’t make them feel uncomfortable,” she said.

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