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Kids and parents fight for cameras on N.J. school buses after alleged rough rides

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Video from cameras on school buses can provide valuable information about the behavior of students and drivers. Three months ago, we reported that students from Intervale Elementary School in Parsippany, N.J., complained that their substitute bus driver would stomp on the brakes while the bus was moving, just to quiet them down.

“He stopped so hard we hit our heads on the seat," 7-year-old Katelyn Wheelock said.

Her 9-year-old sister Jillian said she has "a lot of neck pain," and both girls said the braking happened "pretty much every school day."

Their father, Brian Wheelock, asked the Parsippany Police to investigate.

“The police kept saying without video proof we can’t do anything," Wheelock said.

It turns out there are cameras on the bus these children were on. However, according to a spokesman for the bus company STA, the camera system was not recording anything because there was no hard drive installed. He said the Parsippany Board of Education did not contract for working cameras on its school buses.

What a shame!

“We must have cameras on our buses to keep our kids safe,” Wheelock said.

Last month, he and another parent spoke at a Parsippany Board of Education hearing, hoping to influence its contract negotiations.

However, they soon learned that a new contract with STA had been signed and it does not call for cameras on the buses.

“It is disturbing and shocking,” Wheelock said.

Another parent, Noel Rhodes, said “no one will tell us why they won’t have the cameras on the bus. They’re not giving us a good reason. They haven’t said it's money."

I requested an interview with Parsippany’s acting school superintendent Dr. Leroy Seitz, but he declined to speak on camera. In response to written questions I submitted, he would not say how much extra it would cost to have working cameras on their buses.

“STA voluntarily provides cameras for our bus routes on an as needed basis,” he said.

However, cameras were not requested even after parents and students complained about the substitute driver.

STA said the driver had no previous complaints. The company said it investigated the allegations by Parsippany parents and students and found no proof the driver did anything wrong. Nevertheless, STA said it conducted a “retraining of the driver” and he was transferred to another school district.

As for the students I spoke with, they say there should be working cameras on the school buses.

“We want them to see what’s happening on the bus," Katelyn said.

“...'cause they don’t believe children,” Jillian added.

If you have a story for Arnold Diaz, email whatashame@pix11.com.