Today’s news:

Department of Education urged to equip school buses with GPS

Council Member Michael C. Nelson, responding to recent unsettling events, is urging the NYC Council to adopt legislation requiring the Department of Education to equip all 7,000 DOE school buses with GPS tracking systems.

Nelson has introduced legislation (Introduction 121−2006) requiring the placement of two−way radios and cellular phones in addition to tracking devices on all school buses.

The September 2008 event in which a school bus disappeared for five hours is still vivid in the minds of all New York City parents. The bus, filled with kindergartners and first−graders, did not arrive at its destination until after 9p.m., more than five hours after the school day had ended. The bus driver apparently had gotten lost somewhere after he picked up the children while en route to the designated drop−off sites.

In this situation, had the school bus been equipped with a GPS tracking system, the bus would have been found immediately and the children quickly returned to their worried parents, thereby drastically reducing the chance that the children could have been put into harms way. Luckily, the children were not physically hurt but the risks are too great to allow for inaction.

As recent as April 22, 2009, a three−year old from Brownsville, Brooklyn was inadvertently left behind on a school bus in Brighton Beach for several hours until a pedestrian walking by noticed the child sitting inside. In this particular situation, neither the child’s school nor his parents had any idea of the incident thereby putting the child into more danger.

Since neither the school nor the parents realized that the child did not make it to school, the child could have been stranded on the empty bus for hours with no way of locating him if the pedestrian did not happen to find him.

After testifying before city council members at several Transportation Committee hearings since 2005, and receiving approximately $500 million in funding, DOE has repeatedly promised Nelson and other members of the council, with little to no results, that they will install GPS tracking systems in their school buses. These promises were handed down each year since 2006 when DOE announced the awarding of a contract to implement the system.

Representatives from the Department of Education, testifying at yet another Transportation Committee hearing on Nelson’s GPS bill, stated that due to their expansive fleet, “We do not believe the timeframe is realistic or prudent” and that the responsibility of tracking all 7,000 school buses once the system is in place is not practical.

However, the purpose of installing GPS tracking systems is not to monitor all school buses but rather to provide DOE officials with the ability to locate that one school bus that for some reason or another has not arrived at its designated location(s) at the anticipated time.

“As a parent and having been a teacher and a member of a school board for over six years, I know the most important thing to a parent or guardian is that the child gets safely to school and back home,” said Nelson. “Ergo, I implore the Department of Education to speed up their efforts in implementing GPS tracking systems in all 7,000 DOE school buses. Although these buses are equipped with two−way radios, they only provide a false sense of security. Essentially, installing GPS tracking systems is the best line of defense when ensuring the well−being of our children when we send them to school. I am requesting that the NYC Council codify this as law.”

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