New RFSD safety policy revisions expand use of school bus cameras
Roaring Fork District school buses will be getting new video camera equipment this fall, including audio-recording capabilities, under a new policy set for final consideration next month by the district’s Board of Education.
Two policy revisions and one new policy have been recommended by the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), and are now before the school board overseeing Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt district schools.
Policy changes related to video cameras on transportation vehicles and building security were approved on first reading by the board at its Aug. 24 meeting.
A new policy regarding the general use of video surveillance, along with audio-recording capabilities, on student transportation vehicles and school grounds was also given initial approval.
It states: “Video surveillance shall be utilized in and around schools, on district property, and on equipped school transportation vehicles transporting students to and from school or extracurricular activities.”
Those cameras may also make use of audio recording capabilities, as technology allows, the policy states.
The various policy changes will be back up for required second readings when the board meets again Sept. 14.
In the spring, the district began reviewing safety policies in the aftermath of the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“The safety of our students and staff is always top of mind for us,” new Superintendent Jesús Rodríguez said. “We understand news about violence in schools across the country can cause anxiety and fear but want to reassure the community that safety is our top priority.”
Topping the list was to shore up some of the standard safety and building security protocols that had become lax during the pandemic.
Those temporary practices were aimed at increasing airflow in buildings before new ventilation system upgrades were made, Gatlin noted at a June board meeting.
Routine school safety measures such as secure entrances and monitoring the flow of visitors in and out of buildings, ensuring auxiliary entrances are locked, and a return to regular safety training and drills for staff and students were reemphasized with building leaders to begin the new school year.
At the state level, CASB also issued recommendations for districts to revise existing policies around video cameras on buses and general building security.
The district has had a policy in place since 2001 allowing for the use of cameras on buses, but it didn’t become a standardized practice until 2015 when a voter-approved bond issue paid for a variety of safety upgrades, said Kelsy Been, public information officer for the district.
“We are planning a refresh of the equipment that is scheduled to be installed in October,” she said.
The proposed policy revision states: “After having weighed carefully and balanced the rights of privacy of students with the district’s duty to ensure discipline, health, welfare, and safety of staff and students on school transportation vehicles, the board supports the use of video cameras on its transportation vehicles.”
Regarding building security and controlled access, the current policy is more specific to visitors, where the revised version addresses students and staff, as well.
It states, “For safety and security purposes, access to school buildings, whether by students, staff members or visitors, shall be limited as deemed appropriate for each school building.”
One parent who spoke at the Aug. 24 board meeting offered compliments for the way an incident on the first day of school at Carbondale Community School was handled.
The building went on lockdown for a brief period of time Aug. 22 when police received a report of a man possibly carrying a gun on the nearby Rio Grande Trail.
Police quickly determined there was not a threat and that the man did not have a gun, but the protocols aimed at protecting students worked, the parent said.
He applauded the district for revisiting its safety measures around building practices, and also noted the emotional impact such an incident can have on students and staff.
The district’s existing safety policies also address the availability of mental health support, and outline the “Safe2Tell” service that allows individuals to anonymously report any concerns or potential threats they may have observed in the school setting.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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