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School buses vandalized in Apache Junction

Posted 1/26/23

An increase in school bus vandalism is having an impact on the Apache Junction Unified School District fleet. Several buses — many newer models — have been marred with graffiti and …

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School buses vandalized in Apache Junction


An increase in school bus vandalism is having an impact on the Apache Junction Unified School District fleet. Several buses — many newer models — have been marred with graffiti and several seats have been sliced, officials said.

After every run, by law the drivers must “walk” their bus looking for damage, sleeping children, left behind items, etc. Vandalism was discovered by fleet personnel earlier this week. The damage is estimated to be $82 to $150 per seat.

While the incident is being investigated, district administration is appealing to families to help stop the problem before it gets worse.

“This is disturbing on many levels and we are asking for parents and guardians to help us by having frank discussions with their children about the importance of respecting school property,” AJUSD Superintendent Heather Wallace said in a release. “We feel that with support from our families we can use this issue as an opportunity to teach the importance of not only respecting each other, but respecting the tools that make a good education possible.”

While students, and even families, may feel taking the bus to school is a free ride, the privilege can be withdrawn when the bus rider engages in bad behavior. In the event of vandalism, students receive a seven- to 10-day bus suspension and restitution for repairs which must be paid prior to the student returning on the bus.

Protocol is the driver makes a note of damage and sends pictures of damage to transportation staff. This includes reviewing videos to find the suspect. A damage report is submitted to the fleet supervisor for a repair order, who will then calculate the cost. Parents/guardians are notified approximately in two days if not sooner along with the student of notice of suspension, pictures and invoice. Some parents/guardians will request information to be sent via the mail, the release states.

If the damage is found during a morning run where the student is searched at school and if a weapon is found on their person the school handles the suspension but restitution is still enforced and student(s) cannot return on the bus until fully paid unless arrangements have been made. If damage is found during the evening ride most of the time transportation enforces the suspensions, it states.

“Our transportation department takes pride in maintaining our fleet, providing a clean and healthy bus environment and keeping our students safe while in transit to and from school,” Wallace said in the release. “We simply ask that students extend that same respect to the bus and staff during their journey with us.”

Video cameras

AJUSD has four to six cameras on every bus depending on seat height.

“Cameras are strategically placed above seats. Videos are only pulled if a request/incident report is written and submitted in detail by the driver or from a concerned parent/guardian or school administration. Videos can be viewed by student management or director or supervisor. A written record is kept of who and when a person viewed video and report is filed with findings,” according to a statement from the AJUSD transportation department.

To identify a student and what leads up to the wrongful behavior takes approximately one to three hours of viewing and then locating the student, it states.

“Snapshots of students are created and sent to school administration for confirmation of student’s ID. If video is required from school administration we are able to download clips of videos for administration to view,” it states.

Registration for all new students who wish to enroll in Apache Junction Unified School District schools is being accepted at all school locations. For more information about AJUSD or its schools or departments, go to ajusd.org.