Lawmakers will consider a bill next week to allow parents to view school bus video after reports of physical harm, harassment, intimidation or bullying involving their child.
Brooke Wilkerson said she was concerned when her young daughter told her about a “secret tickling game” on the bus that she wasn’t supposed to talk about. Later, her daughter said she had to wipe off her mouth after a friend kissed her. Wilkerson said she later found out the other student was 12.
Wilkerson went to school officials and the Marshall County Sheriff’s office to try to find out more, but could not get anyone in authority to do a complete review of all the bus video to find out what had been happening. Officials also told her that she would not be allowed to view the video herself because a federal law, the Family Educational and Privacy Rights (FERPA), prevented the school from releasing it.
(FERPA was created to ensure parents have access to their student’s educational records, and prohibits the school from releasing a student’s records to others. But it’s often misunderstood and misused to withhold records even from parents.)
Meanwhile, Wilkerson, who also writes a mom blog, had learned that the school bus driver had been fired. And she was told by a school resource officer, who reviewed at least parts of footage related to her daughter, that the “bus was out of control.”
Finally, after hiring a lawyer, Wilkerson was allowed to see the video.
In the end, only 4 weeks of footage was available, saved in 5-minute segments, resulting in about 2,000 clips with no way to organize or sort them. She said she watched much of the video and saw altercations on the bus and kids rolling around on the floor. Her daughter sat in the very back where the friend had asked her to sit.
‘I just want to see what happened’
“All I’m asking for is transparency. I just wanted to see what happened. I never once said anything about pressing charges,” Wilkerson said. “The only people who can access the video are the ones who have an interest in protecting it. You have to trust they will tell you that (the bus driver) wasn’t doing their job, not monitoring the bus.”
The bill is being carried by Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg, on the House side as HB 248.
Wilkerson has since taken her daughter out of the Marshall County public school and is homeschooling. She said she plans to put a petition on her website to help support the law change to allow parents to freely see school bus video when they hear of a problem related to their child.
She plans to testify at the Senate Education Committee next Wednesday. The meeting starts at 2:30 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room I.