People say actions speak louder than words, but that idiom doesn't apply to a new law allowing school districts to target bullies by recording audio while students are riding school buses.
Districts have been recording video on school buses for about 20 years, but audio recording was believed to be a violation of the state's wiretapping law.
A bill from state Sen. Richard Alloway II exempts school buses from the law, a measure he said will be another tool to "control behavior and resolve issues (and) will help ensure a safe ride for all students."
The bill passed the House and Senate with overwhelming support, including positive votes from every legislator who represents York County. Gov. Tom Corbett signed it Feb. 4, and it will become law 60 days from that date.
Alloway, R-York, Adams, Franklin counties, and other York legislators said they weren't worried about any perceived loses of rights or self-expression on behalf of the students riding the buses, saying the audio recordings will serve as a deterrent to bad behavior and protect the rights of students who fall victim to other students.
"This is for the bus driver and to ensure the safety of the other children," said state Sen. Pat Vance, R-York and Cumberland, after voting for the bill in July. "Does one express ourselves by threatening and sometimes harming another student? What about their rights?"
Districts respond: Some York County school officials said many of the buses wired with video are already equipped for audio, but it hasn't been enabled. York school districts are among those that plan to flip the switch.
School districts will be able to use the recordings for disciplinary or security purposes, if the school district's board adopts a policy to allow the practice and notifies students and parents of the policy.
"Certainly it would be helpful in some situations to have audio and video, especially if there's bullying that's occurring," said Darla Pianowski, superintendent of Eastern York School District. "It would be helpful to hear what goes on when children are speaking to each other, if they're verbally bullying another student."
Dover Area School District administrators have been among those advocating for the change.
In July, business manager Belinda Wallen said audio also could help fill in gaps in the action when something is missed on film as a result of the camera's placement.
— Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.