KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — As Kalamazoo Public Schools students are getting ready to head back, so are the district’s bus drivers, who have a new tool to make sure the kids are picked up and dropped off safely.
In April, the district’s board of education approved more than $126,000 to have license plate cameras installed on school buses.
“We cannot afford for any student to be hurt,” said KPS Superintendent Dr. Darrin Slade. “Across the country, during the course of the school year, probably hundreds of students are hurt in bus-related incidents — people going around the bus.”
Since 2021, Michigan law has allowed school bus stop-arm camera systems, which have been installed on all 115 buses driven for daily pickup and drop-off at Kalamazoo Public Schools. They feature motion sensors that automatically record whenever a vehicle passes a stopped school bus with its lights on, capturing them from as far away as 200 feet.
If caught on the cameras, the fines won’t necessarily go to the person behind the wheel.
“The ticket actually goes to the registered owner. That’s the change,” said Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Director David Boysen. “We used to have to show who was driving the car. Now, it’s just the registered owner gets the citation. … Obviously, if our officers observe it, the driver gets the citation. But if we use this technology, in partnership with (Kalamazoo) Public Schools, it’ll go to the registered owner.”
The fines associated with the civil infraction can reach $500.
And it’s not just buses that drivers should be looking out for.
“We’re going to have crossing guards out there with the … stop signs. You also must stop for them as well,” Boysen explained. “Actually, that is, per city ordinance … a misdemeanor: failing to stop if a crossing guard puts a stop sign up and you don’t stop at the intersection.”
Boysen said they are also bumping up patrols around school zones. He reminded drivers to watch out for signs and enforcement times, nothing that fines within those zones could double.
With the academic year approaching, drivers are urged to be aware, alert and patient.
“It’s not worth hurting a young person by going around a bus, so just be patient and let our bus drivers do our job and keep our students safe,” Slade said.
‘FOCUS ON EDUCATION’: KPS REMINDS KIDS TO FOLLOW RULES
As students at KPS prepare to head back to class, administrators are reminding them of a few policies they will be enforcing more this year.
“We’re really trying to make school a place where students come and focus on education, where it’s not a fashion-type show or a distraction,” Slade said.
The policies in question, which are already in place, come from the code of conduct, particularly the dress code and cell phone policy.
One of the rules within the district’s dress code says that students cannot wear hooded sweatshirts in buildings, according to Slade. He explained that hooded sweatshirts are not just a tripping safety hazard.
“We have big schools, high schools with 1,800, 2,000 students in some cases,” Slade said. “We have to make sure that we can identify students during the course of the school day. Sometimes, when you have your hood on, that’s hard to do.”
The rules also apply to face coverings that go over the whole face, as well as clothing or accessories that may be considered fashionable.
“If I had on a Chicago Bulls shirt and I had on a red Chicago Bulls hat, just for a fashion-type statement — we’re not going to allow that,” Slade explained. “What you do outside of school, you wear whatever you want. … We do have rules in school. When you come in school, you do have to adhere to our rules.”
Slade said cellphones are not allowed to be out in the classroom, according to district policy.
“Any teacher will tell you that cellphones create a major distraction in the classroom and sometimes prevent a student from learning or meeting their full potential,” he said.
The policies apply to all of Kalamazoo Public Schools.
If students are caught not following them, discipline will not necessarily involve suspension, according to Slade.
“We’re talking about phone calls, parent conferences, detentions if needed. Only if it’s just extreme and it’s consistent will we move past those consequences,” Slade said.
KPS students start school Aug. 28.