Amtran to put security audio on ‘tripper’ buses

Amtran will take advantage of a new state law that allows security audio on school buses – a usage that previously put school bus operators at risk of violating wiretapping law.

On Wednesday, Amtran board adopted a policy to allow audio recordings on “tripper” buses the authority operates to supplement the Altoona Area School District’s regular yellow-bus routes.

“The school district will be appreciative,” said Dave Andrews, solicitor for Amtran and the school district.

State lawmakers in February created an exception to the law that otherwise requires both parties to consent in advance before audio recording.

Andrews had previously advised Amtran against using audio on the trippers, some of which are equipped with video recorders.

Flipping on the audio switches for the tripper video cameras – at least those with microphones – could deter student misbehavior, including profanity directed at drivers and bullying of other students, according to Andrews and Amtran General Manager Eric Wolf.

Deterring bad behavior of passengers allows drivers to focus on their main task, which is driving safely, Wolf said.

Audio recordings may also help determine what really happened when incidents occur, according to Wolf.

Such audio could be used as evidence in student expulsion hearings, Andrews indicated.

Based on Amtran’s overall experience with video, the evidence generally exculpates drivers, when there are passenger accusations, Wolf said.

“You have to protect yourself,” said Amtran board member Dick Moran.

Problem behavior on the trippers happens only “occasionally,” Wolf said.

The new law requires school districts planning to record audio on buses to advise parents and students of that intention before each school year and to post warnings on the buses, according to a newsletter posted online by the Pennsylvania School Bus Association.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.