New School Bus Comes with “Predator Finder”

Readers — It’s weird enough when we are warned that our bumper stickers are busy attracting predators. Now there is a new line of school bus that videos the cars behind it, on the bizarre assumption that these may be driven by predators so unsure of where else to find a child that they are following the big, yellow kiddie dispenser. And that’s not to mention the thumbprint recognition and tracking of the students, as if THEY were predators: 

A brief glance won’t tell you the new buses are equipped with voice-over-IP communication systems, or that they transmit data on speed, location and acceleration in real-time. The “Thumbs-Up!” thumbprint scanner, which keeps track of which kids are on the bus and whether they’re supposed to be there, is also hard to see unless you’re really pressing your face to the glass, as are the multiple interior security cameras.

Slightly easier to notice is the rear-facing camera, dubbed — no joke — the “Pedophile Finder.” “I wish we could have come up with a better name for it,” says Dallas County Schools spokeswoman Allison Allison. (Yes, that’s the correct name.) The camera, mounted on the top portion of the school bus and positioned to capture the license plate of tailing vehicles, isn’t just to catch pedophiles. It could be a parent who lost custody of their child, or a kidnapper. But “Pedophile Finder” was the name that stuck. “The bus driver can’t tell if somebody’s tailing him but if they recognize a pattern of a car following a bus” based on video, they can take appropriate measures.

I’m really curious what those “appropriate measures” are. Slam on the brakes and wait for the crash? Alert the police, “There’s  a car behind me!”  Get out of the bus and demand to see if the driver is wearing pants? Please, PLEASE protest if your school district even CONSIDERS these add-ons as “necessary for the safety of our children.” – L. 

To catch a predator...while driving a bus.

To catch a bus-tailgating predator.

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54 Responses to New School Bus Comes with “Predator Finder”

  1. hineata April 4, 2014 at 1:23 am #

    Sorry, but this one is just funny! How long before teenagers start driving behind the bus mooning it? Though I suppose that would just get them on the SO registry.

    I’m seized with a crazy desire to get a whole line of cars behind it with drivers dressed up as Jason, Freddie, the guy from the Saw movies, or even the Alien and the Predator. Come on Texans, get out and have fun with this :-)

  2. Andrew April 4, 2014 at 2:08 am #

    Thumbprint scanners (for registration, the library, paying for lunch, etc) are becoming pervasive at schools in the UK.

    Isn’t the bus driver meant to be driving the bus? And paying attention to the road, not watching rear-facing video.

  3. Dave B April 4, 2014 at 4:37 am #

    Oh, so the thumbprint scanners are for checking in the kids on the bus? Are they using a turnstyle for the kids to unlock?
    Kids, little robots that they are, would never try to rush in 2, 3,… kids at a time. They will arrive with ample time to wait that each kid is properly given the thumbs up. Hey they will even wait in the rain while Aaron A Aaronson has to twiddle his thumb multiple times for the scanner.

    And surely kids will never forget to thumb out when they try to leave the bus.

    “Okay the system tells me there are now 300 kids in this bus, so come on right in and take a seat”

    Next step will be thumb prints for parents, guardians,…

    I can’t imagine how many false positives the pedo cam will generate.
    Kid forgot his lunch bag and mom drives after the bus? Pedo!

    Dad is a teacher/janitor/… at the same school and wants to save his kid from the embarrasment of being driven by daddy. Pedo!

    You work/live somewhere somewhat corresponding with the schoolbos route? Pedo!

    Kids (16+) drive with their own cars to hs and have to drive behind a school bus? Pedo!

    As if there are special roads and routes just for school transportation and no one would ever have a legit reason for using a public road were incidentally a bus is driving.

    Seems to be the right time start selling nooses, before all the lynchings start.

  4. common sense April 4, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    i leave for work the same time as the local school bus picks up.. i usually end up right behind it..should i be expecting an arrest and interegation?

  5. Emily April 4, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Yeah, I was just about to say that–what about people who are following the bus because their kid forgot their lunch box/gym shoes/musical instrument/costume for a play/whatever, or people who just happen to be going in the same direction as the bus? None of this makes any sense at all.

  6. SOA April 4, 2014 at 7:19 am #

    I have gotten stuck behind buses for miles before. Uh oh guess that means I would be labeled a pedophile

  7. BL April 4, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    @Andrew
    “Thumbprint scanners (for registration, the library, paying for lunch, etc) are becoming pervasive at schools in the UK”

    You’d think George Orwell’s native land would see through this sort of thing.

    Alas, they’ve taken 1984 as a policy manual rather than as a warning.

    Like every other country.

  8. Silver Fang April 4, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    More needless fear mongering.

  9. Warren April 4, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    Wow, so the little one’s fingerprints are going to be on file from the day they register for school. Next on the list is a dna sample…..you go nanny state.

    What will they set a criteria for pulling over a driver and detaining them? Or will they take the plate and then send cops to houses and places of work, to find out why you have been following the school bus? Wouldn’t that be wonderful, a couple of uniformed cops asking to see you at work.

    Let’s face it, parents will be told that if they object to having their kids fingerprints on file, then their kids will not be allowed to ride the buses.

    Any school that adopts these buses is a school that I definitely would remove a child from.

  10. Paula April 4, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    I remember the in-bus cameras when they were installed. The bus driver said he was required to watch the tape every night. Now they have outside cameras. They also should cover bases and do an under the bus camera in case a creep is trying to hitch a secret ride to school under the bus!

  11. Edward April 4, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Remember , public school system residents, this is your tax money being spent – YOU HAVE INPUT as to how it is spent. Get on your school board’s agenda NOW!

  12. Edward April 4, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    Oh yeah, forgot to add, the state of Georgia does not issue a “front” license plate for any vehicle….oops to somebody.

  13. anonymous this time April 4, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    Amazing how much money is available for this ridiculousness, but there’s never enough money to provide effective education.

  14. maggie April 4, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    @ Edward, NM also does not have front mount license plates.

    The camera will only record the license plate of the vehicle directly behind it. Useless. Why?

    It’s not exactly hard to follow a BIG YELLOW BUS from 5 cars back, not to mention it TAKES THE EXACT SAME ROUTE the same time EVERY DAY.

    This is stupid, and taking kid’s fingerprints is a serious invasion of privacy.

  15. Katrina April 4, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    More fear mongering to sell a product to schools, more work for police, more unarmed citizens served up for for police to shoot, and more importantly more conditioning of our children to accept Big Brother controlling their lives. Don’t think for a minute those fingerprints won’t be used by police as well to stock private prisons. Private schools and homeschooling are the only way to go today if you care about your kids.

  16. Papilio April 4, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Wasn’t there the story of a dad who was so afraid for his daughter’s safety on the schoolbus that he followed the bus in his own car to make sure nothing happened to her? Pedo!

    “wants to save his kid from the embarrasment of being driven by daddy
    Hey – does that stigma exist in the USA too?? That surprises me.

    @Andrew: “Thumbprint scanners (for registration, the library, paying for lunch, etc) are becoming pervasive at schools in the UK”
    Disturbing how, geographically, the UK is about 130 miles away from me and an entire ocean away from the USA, yet culturally it’s more like the opposite…

    @Warren: “Wow, so the little one’s fingerprints are going to be on file from the day they register for school. Next on the list is a dna sample…..you go nanny state.”
    Nanny state? Isn’t it rather a prison state by now?

  17. SOA April 4, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Yeah around here most kids are driven by parents and I think the bus kids are the ones more likely to be odd balls. I think people look down on having kids ride the school bus because it is like the houses that have a stay at home parent or a nice job with flexible hours etc that have the time to drive and pick up the kids and it is almost like a status symbol. Many parents who could have the kids ride the bus, still pick them up.

    Around here no front liscense plates. I have never even hardly seen them so yeah….

    Also I will say though it would be cool to be able to track the bus location for parents and the school just for practical sakes like if the bus is running late you know and know exactly how late it will be. Since a lot of parents have to run kids to activities or playdates or doctor appts etc after school knowing if the bus is late and by how much could be very useful.

    So I won’t knock that part of it but the fingerprint scans and the cameras and stuff is stupid.

    I don’t mind cameras in the buses filiming the kids because let’s face it, the statistics do back up that most bullying happens on the bus. Or a lot of it does. I was almost injured twice when fights broke out on the bus by just sitting close to the fight. So they need video evidence of that kind of stuff. I had to stop riding the bus because it was becoming too dangerous and every time a fight broke out they had to drive all the way back to school to drop off the fighters then complete the route and I got home way late. This was in a 3 month period that happened twice.

    So my mom started picking me up herself.

    I am okay with videos of the kids on the buses because it might keep them better behaved. Plus the driver can’t really manage the kids and drive safely at the same time so they need to be able to know by watching the video what is going on back there and can look out for any troublemakers.

  18. Donna April 4, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Even if we assume the very industrious predator that just happens to see a child and will then do anything in the world to have him/her and no other child will do, why the heck would he follow a school bus?

    If he sees the kid get on the bus at a bus stop, he KNOWS exactly where the child is going so no need to follow the bus to school. It is not like school buses pick up kids and take them various places.

    If he sees the kid at school, he KNOWS where to find the kid for 6 hours a day/180 days of the year. Heck, if he is on school property to see (a) the child and (b) what bus the child gets on, he probably has a kid or works at the school and can easily find out where said kid lives.

  19. Gina April 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Thumb prints to ride the bus? Whatever happened to “Dear Bus Driver, Sam is going home with James today. Sincerely Sam’s Mom”?

  20. joe April 4, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    This has to be the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. it seems a drunk driver cam seems way more appropriate.

  21. MJ April 4, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    What a pathetic concept! Are we to make kids feel like no where in the world is it safe? So much so that the pedophiles and rapists are now turning to stalking school buses to wait for one of the kids to uhmm.. fall out? Thumb print? Ok, what about when little 4 year old Johnny is being such a big boy getting on the bus all by his big self but his fingerprint is not cleared for him to board the bus? Are the police going to be called, oh and CPS oh and then finally the parents to say his thumb print isn’t being recognized, therefore he cannot board the bus and therefore he now considered to have been abandoned and therefore now CPS wants to investigate and then police can lay charges of child abuse? I mean, as crazy as it sounds, thats the norm right!? My oh my, what is this world coming to!?

  22. Gary April 4, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    This is a hoax, any fool with a lick of sense knows Predator cannot be “found” and only gives off a telltale shimmer and even that is under the best of circumstances.

    “Predator Finder” oh please…

  23. Gary April 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

    “i leave for work the same time as the local school bus picks up.. i usually end up right behind it..should i be expecting an arrest and interegation?”

    ROFL!!! This is just like the comment I made the other day regarding the bus by me stopping multiple times on the main road.

    bus 2495 to Dispatch!!!

    go ahead 2495…

    Predators!! hundreds of ’em!! following me!!! request immediate backup!!

  24. SOA April 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    If I wanted to abduct a kid following the school bus is not the way to go. I would think waiting for the kid at the bus stop like behind a bush or something would make more sense. Just saying. You can’t catch them on the actual bus. der.

  25. Gary April 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    “If I wanted to abduct a kid following the school bus is not the way to go. I would think waiting for the kid at the bus stop like behind a bush or something would make more sense.”

    Go big or go home…

    http://www.ghilliesandstuff.com/image_manager/attributes/image/image_72/41965494_4240734460.jpg

  26. JJ April 4, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    The problem is partly fear-mongering, but even more so our society’s overly high self-esteem. I don’t know how we’ve gotten here, but we are convinced that we, and by extension our children, are so wonderful/adorable/special that everyone is a potential predator focused on them alone. This is similar to the bumper sticker issue a couple days ago. Of course we love our own children. Yet it is remarkably naïve, un-evolved, and self-centered for parents to not realize that while your individual children might be the center of YOUR OWN universe, they are not the center of THE universe. No stranger is combing playgrounds, following buses, and surfing facebook to find the needle in a haystack that is YOUR child. Get over yourselves!

  27. Brenna April 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    JJ – totally agree, and have said that here before. It’s like an extension of the narcissism that’s so rampant from our “self-esteem” campaign. I love my kids. They ARE the center of my universe. But objectively, they are a royal pain in the kiester – pretty much all kids are. Who wants some that aren’t their own?!?!

  28. Lauren April 4, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    I want to leave this country and move to America. This is not my USA. What’s next? Implant security chips so we know where all the kids are in the school? Make all the parents get chips too, so we can scan them to make sure they’re picking up the right kid? Argh!

  29. Warren April 4, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    Why stop here?

    Have the camera facing the driver, have that tied into facial recognition software to compare all those nasty followers with the sex offender registry. When a match is found, the system automatically calls the police and units are dispatched.
    Include some tracking software so that if a vehicle stays behind the bus through only a single turn, then police are automatically dispatched. You can never be too safe. Think of the children, oh those poor children!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Warren April 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    As for the tracking of bus riders……..I thought tracking devices were only for those on probation or parole.

  31. Peter April 4, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Can’t kids have a moment when they aren’t being recorded? The school should stop being Big Brother and give the kids a break.

    Oh, that reminds me, I like the TV show Big Brother (for the strategy, not the drama), but I was getting frustrated with slice.ca shutting down all the livestreams of their Canadian version running right now.

    Well, I learned recently there’s this new thing called Hola, so I installed that on Chrome. And as a wonderful side-effect, I’ve finally been able to see your show without being region-locked. In the past 2 days I’ve watched the first 7 episodes.

  32. oncefallendotcom April 4, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    John Walsh was pimping a new term he came up called “bus surfing,” which Walsh claims is the act of “pedophiles” stalking buses waiting for victims to get off the bus.

    THIS is the REAL “bus surfing:”

    http://expatbrazil.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/rj-bus-surfing.jpg

  33. Backroads April 4, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

    Husband and I got a big laugh out of this.

    I have the mental image of a cozy little bus driving peacefully down some country road, void of all other traffic but a long line of white windowless vans trailing the bus.

  34. Steve April 4, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    Did anybody else catch the blurb on the site where along with increasing safety it would increase revenue?

    It’s all about the money.

  35. lisa April 4, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    OMG! This is so dumb. The best way to make busses safer is to install SEATBELTS!!

  36. Reziac April 4, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    hineata, that is my new favorite comment 😀 😀 😀

    And someone makes a good observation, that this “self-esteem” crap has fed the narcissistic notion that the whole world wants your kids, because they’re just as special as their parents think they are, thanks to “self-esteem training” or whatever it’s being called now. (When the concept was finally actually researched — turns out the people with the highest self-esteem are *career criminals*. Ooops!)

    No, nobody else wants your kids. That’s why they’re YOUR kids. If someone wanted them, there are more opportunities to abduct them than you could ever counter short of locking your kid in a vault from birth and never letting them out. Explain to me how that’s better than a stranger locking your kid in a vault.

  37. Merrick April 4, 2014 at 9:13 pm #

    Lisa — Buses are already the safest vehicle on the road. They use compartmentalization rather than seatbelts.
    See: http://www.nhtsa.gov/School-Buses

  38. bmj2k April 4, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    I can only laugh at this one. I can’t wait until all the footage of motorists flipping it the bird goes on YouTube.

  39. SOA April 5, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    We used to sit at the back of the bus and flip off cars sometimes when I was in sixth grade. Naughty naughty

  40. Jenny Islander April 5, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    Update on the “you must present ID to pick up your child from the standardized testing location” I posted under the bumper sticker article: Every single day, the proctors had the kids watching for their parents’/guardians’ cars and trusted them to go out on their own. Every single day! >D I wonder whether the ID rule was enforced only for children known to be caught in a messy divorce.

    Back on topic: This is yet another recategorization of completely innocuous behavior as predatory. Men jogging down public sidewalks near schools, adults without children sitting on public benches in public parks, and now people needing to use the same road at the same time as a school bus? This one is made even worse by the equipment involved: somebody, somewhere, realized that there were pigeons to be plucked, and obligingly produced an item for sale. And of course there is the extra bother and fuss required by demanding thumbprint access just to get on the bus! So, if my child wakes up with stomach flu, and I call the school office to let them know, and the message doesn’t reach the school bus company in time to be radioed/phoned out to the driver, are police going to show up at my door to tell me that my child has been abducted while she is on the couch behind me, puking into a mixing bowl? Also, it’s fricking freezing here for most of the school year. Is the driver really going to sit there with the door hanging open to the blasting subarctic wind while child after child pulls off one mitten in order to satisfy the thumbprint reader? Frankly, if I were that driver, the damn thing would “mysteriously” “break” just after the school district budget was done for the year.

  41. SOA April 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    Our PTA is saving up for video cameras for the school playground and I really don’t have any idea why. For what purpose? To make sure no one damages or vandalizes the playground during time when no one is there? I doubt there is much risk of that though as this is a nice area and there are subdivisions that back up to the playground and would notice suspicious behavior.

    To film the kids but then the teachers are always out there at recess monitoring anyway so I don’t see the reason for the video cameras. To monitor parents when they bring the kids to play on the playground?

    I want to go ask the reason for it but I know I will probably just get treated as hostile for even asking and I just don’t care enough to bother. Sucks though that the money I help raised for PTA is being spent on something stupid.

  42. Warren April 5, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    Dolly,

    Cannot complain about the money for the camera, if you are not going to at least question it.

  43. SKL April 5, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    Speaking of cameras, I just saw a video on foxnews.com that was labeled “attempted abduction caught on tape.” I watched it out of curiosity. It seems a girl was riding around on her kid motorcycle and she “locked eyes with a stranger” and her instinct told her to zip home. The family just installed security cameras last week. And the camera caught her coming home and the bottom edge of a car that had come slowly behind her (on the public road) and then drove away.

    So all I can see is that someone saw this girl riding around on a kid motorcycle, looked at her, and drove along the public road in the direction she had gone, maybe slowed down to look at her as she rode into the garage, and drove away.

    So which part of that is an abduction? Is it now illegal to look at a kid doing something a little unusual (kiddy motorcycles are still rare around here), or is it illegal to drive along a public road to see where she is going? What if she was driving erratically and the “stranger” just wanted to see that she got home OK? She did say that she was so scared she almost crashed.

    I do believe in our kids trusting their instinct, and maybe she did rightly sense that person was a weirdo. I don’t know. But none of what I saw or heard proves anything. How can they call that an “attempted abduction”?

  44. SOA April 6, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    I asked someone on PTA and found out the cameras are for vandalism. Apparently some bored teenagers have been damaging the playground at night and messing around out there. So in that case I support the cameras as that equipment is brand new and cost a lot of money. I am surprised but I guess it happens.

  45. BL April 6, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    @SOA
    “I asked someone on PTA and found out the cameras are for vandalism. Apparently some bored teenagers have been damaging the playground at night and messing around out there.”

    I suppose posting some sort of guard to catch them was out of the question?

  46. Donna April 6, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    “I suppose posting some sort of guard to catch them was out of the question?”

    Which would be far more expensive than installing cameras.

  47. SOA April 6, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    Cameras are cheaper than a guard. Unless parents would volunteer to stand out there and guard it but that would only be a short term solution as who wants to volunteer to do that long term? We have a lot of officers that live near by and probably patrol it but I guess it was not enough and it still gets messed with. From what I understand it was an on going problem. So in that case I am okay with the cameras. But at first I thought it was some crazy overreacting thing about predators or something.

  48. JP April 6, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    aw shucks,
    – and when I remember all the fun I used to have way back when, following a lumbering old slow yellow bus….and the kids making faces at me out the back window. (or waving with bright shiny smiles, as the case may be.)

    We are become a sad and silly race – that we should commodify, industrialize and value-add our progeny in such a way.
    Though we don’t build, manufacture or make much of anything anymore is a tragic fact. That we turn all those smarts over to such horrifically pathetic attempts to “securitize” our existence – is a farce of Monty Pytheon proportions.
    (But no-one’s laughing much – it’s not funny so much, when you realize that the fools who come up with this stuff, really mean it.)

  49. JP April 6, 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    and to SKL,

    Yes, apparently just looking at a kid could be construed (by some) as an attempted…..(pick your poison.)

    Imagine a world (or our sad society, anyway) where no-one who is not bonded by parental bloodlines is allowed to do anything in response to a child…..and then imagine that same child alone and in actual real trouble (and no parent(s) to be found.)

    It follows: nanny state and only nanny state is allowed (legally) to come to the rescue.

    Um, this works real well in certain parts of Latin America, where the offspring of wealthy parents have their very own private and well-paid bodyguards.
    The other 99.9% of the kids – just have to tough it out as best they can.
    You see – it’s definitely a value-added profit opportunity (for the gun-totin’ heroes.)

    But here in the land of free enterprise, we want to drop that percentage down a tad. One third of the kiddie population offers the delicious prospect of a whole new industry. Might even eventually replace General Motors.

  50. Kimberly Herbert April 6, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    The cameras on board are about documenting student misbehavior, and protecting the driver not the kids.

    I wonder if the fingerprint scanners aren’t in part about funding. In my district we have to give each bus rider a pass every first Wednesday. In Texas the state pays transportation cost for students who meet certain criteria (I think this is current)
    1. SPED students are usually covered
    2. Students who live more than 2 miles from school.
    3. Students who have to cross a 4 lane road
    4. Students who have to cross a road with a limit of 45 mph or higher.

  51. SKL April 6, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    I would not be surprised if another reason for the camera is to catch cars driving dangerously. For example, recently a 5yo boy was killed by a hit-and-run driver who was passing a school bus. They never did find the culprit because all they had was a bad shot of the very top of the SUV. Maybe they would like to have evidence of people illegally passing school buses or driving recklessly enough to cause accidents. After all, they have traffic light cameras, why not school bus cameras?

  52. SOA April 7, 2014 at 7:01 am #

    Around here they started doing a thing where they would have a police officer ride on random buses just to watch for cars that pass the bus or do dangerous illegal traffic things regarding the bus. They would sit there with a ticket pad and write out tickets and then you got them mailed to you. I remember hearing about it on the news. I was fine with it. I don’t know if they still do it, but they at least did it for awhile.

  53. Tsu Dho Nimh April 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    A far better camera would be one that catches the plates and driver of any car that passes the bus while it is stopped with the flashers on.

    Those drivers are way more dangerous than any presumed “pedophile” following the bus.

  54. Dan April 8, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    You are all missing the point of this video system!

    I looked over the manufactures website. All the equipment is installed on the buses at no charge to the schools! Yes, for FREE! How can that be? Well the real reason for the external cameras is to witness traffic violations! Like passing a stopped bus and such. The exterior cameras are monitored in real time by a “security professional” witness who has a citation issued to the offending vehicle. The school and the manufacturer take a cut of the citation revenue!