As the number of illegal motorist school bus passings increase in many parts of the country, so are the fines. New York State is one of the latest to introduce legislation to up the fine fees for offenders as well as impose criminal penalties.
Recently the New York Senate Transportation Committee approved legislation, introduced by Sen. George Maziarz, a Republican from Niagara County, to increase the fines for first-time and repeated offenders. If signed into law, the first offense would jump from $400 to $750; a second time (within three years) would increase from $750 to $1,150; and three or more offenses (also within three years) would be bumped up from $1,000 to $1,500. Additionally, drivers who cause injuries or fatalities by illegally passing stopped school buses would face charges of aggravated vehicular assault or criminally negligent homicide.
Apparently there is currently no corresponding legislation in the state Assembly, according to a May 24 report. Those who support the legislation in the Senate, however, are confident the bill will pass in the Assembly.
It's not only states stepping up their enforcement of illegal passers but local governments as well. One example can be found in Dallas, where the Dallas County Public Schools began testing stop arm cameras at the start of the 2010-2011 school year. Now, the district received the green light to install cameras on its 1,700 school buses, and motorists who are caught on tape breaking the law must pay tickets of $300. The city council this week passed the new ordinance. The school district pushed for the new ordinance about the same time that it began using the stop arm cameras. It is expected Dallas County Public Schools will use the revenue from the fines to pay for the cameras and installation.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been tracking all kinds of things for years, from animals to products to people. Next year the Northside Independent School District in Texas will be tracking students at one of its high schools and middle schools for safety reasons, but also to count students more accurately in the morning to help offset cuts in state funding. All special education students who ride district buses also will be part of the trial phase.
If the district is successful during this time, it could eventually include modifying the ID cards with RFID tags for nearly 100,000 students across all 112 of its schools. That’s a lot of heads to count, which is probably why the district wants to ensure it gets an accurate amount of necessary funding. However, this trial period already is a big endeavor for the district, as the number of students at the high school and middle school adds up to about 6,290.
There is a vital side story to this action, with some questioning the practice on privacy grounds.
We’ve all seen how technology can perpetuate bullying, but thankfully technology can also help combat it. While there are more educational apps coming to market as more and more schools are integrating laptops, iPads and iPods into the classroom, one new app targets cyberbulling.
The SchoolReach CyberBully Hotline app, part of a Tech & Learning list of the newest education-related apps available, is a voice and text-message communications tool that allows students to anonymously report bullying and cyberbullying to school officials. The complete bullying program gives schools access to a resource center and professional development materials. For students who may have iPads or smartphones with them while riding the school bus and may be bullied or witness bullying, this app can be a valuable resource.
File this one under "oops." Earlier this month, and likely still, parents of elementary school students in Atlanta were outraged to discover that their children were transported back from a field trip in party buses. The 32-passenger buses designed to host adults came equipped with dance poles, privacy windows, fog machines, refrigerators and VIP sections. The elementary school contracted with Premier Party Bus, which said it had no idea the customers were so young. Sounds like someone needs to read our upcoming June magazine article on managing field trips.