Pennsylvania Legislature Seeks to Close School Bus Wiretap Loophole

In the Spring/Summer 2006 issue of School Law News, we wrote on the subject of whether or not to conduct audio surveillance on school buses.  As you may recall, a controversy arose last year after the Pennsylvania State Police suggested that school districts and transit carriers who record audio, as well as video, on school buses may be committing a violation of the state’s Wiretap Act.  In response, the Allegheny County District Attorney stated that his office would not prosecute school districts or transit companies for Wiretap Act violations where audio is recorded, provided that (1) the school district formally adopts a policy permitting audio surveillance on school buses; (2) the school district provides an annual notice to students and parents informing them of the audio recording policy; and (3) a conspicuous sign is placed on school buses informing passengers that audio recording is taking place. 

Recently, legislation has been introduced in the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives which would resolve this issue with finality.  HB 797, as presently stated, would permit audio recording on any school bus transporting children to and from school or to and from a school-related activity, without there being any question of the Wiretap Act being violated.  The statute’s protection would not apply in circumstances where school buses are used to transport other groups of people for non-school-related purposes. 

HB 797 was referred to the State House Judiciary Committee on March 19, 2007 and is presently awaiting consideration.  We will update you regarding the status of this legislation in future editions of this newsletter.
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