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State College School District Planning to Record Audio on School Buses

by on July 30, 2014 6:30 AM

School officials with the State College Area School District are taking steps to comply with a new wiretapping law that allows officials to record audio on school buses.

While more than half of the district's school buses are equipped with video surveillance systems – and every new bus purchased comes equipped with surveillance equipment - Van Swauger, director of transportation, says previously only the images could be used for student discipline and police investigations.

Under a new law, which the state legislature approved and Gov. Tom Corbett signed earlier this year, school officials can now use audio for student or employee discipline and law enforcement can use the audio as evidence for criminal investigations.

In general terms, it is illegal to record audio of another person in Pennsylvania without that person's consent. Senate Bill 57 amended the state's wiretapping and surveillance law to allow school districts to record and use the audio.

To comply with the law, school boards in Pennsylvania must adopt a formal policy authorizing interception of surveillance audio for disciplinary or security purposes. The district must also notify parents annually of the policy. Additionally, the district must clearly post on each bus a notice explaining that audio is being recorded.

The State College Area School Board reviewed the policy Monday night and is expected to adopt the policy at a future public meeting.

Swauger says in general the district will not see any obvious differences as video surveillance was already in place. However, he says access to audio recordings, for issues such as bullying or other misbehaviors, will expand capabilities for school officials and law enforcement.

"I think it's going to be a great tool for us to be able to use," he says.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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