Many public school classes are virtual this school year. Authorities with concerns over COVID-19 have shut down school campuses and forced students to learn online from home. These shut downs are literally bringing to parents’ doorstep the reality of the educational landscape through “distance learning.” Government officials have sent webcams and screens into living rooms throughout the state. Government employees—teachers—are monitoring the live streams from these cameras while instructing children and assigning homework. Anyone in a student’s home may be able to overhear these class discussions, including parents.
In some cases of distance learning, the parents are asked or told to stay out of the part of the home where the camera and screen are.[i]
A direct example of this is Rutherford County Schools in Tennessee, serving students in grades K-12. The school district informed parents in August that they must sign a waiver agreeing not to observe their student’s online meetings with their teachers. They gave the dubious defense of maintaining academic privacy for other students.[ii] However, a US district court in Kansas ruled that while student academic records are private, there is no expectation of privacy in the classroom.[iii] Parents were understandably upset with the Rutherford directive, which also stated that their child would be removed from the virtual program if the agreement was violated. Following the parents’ outcry, new guidelines were issued with only a slight improvement: Parents may observe, but only with permission from their child’s teacher.
Would you have believed it if someone had told you five years ago that kids in public school would be required to have a live video camera in their living room at home?
Would you have believed that there would be government agents (teachers) monitoring the video feed while parents were not allowed to be in the same room?
Even if the intention is to protect other students’ privacy, the mere fact that the school district wants to exclude parents from their children’s education reveals the open door for other kinds of conversations in which a parent may be unaware of what their child is being taught.
In fact, a teacher in Pennsylvania recently tweeted the following:
So, this fall, virtual class discussions will have many potential spectators – parents, siblings, etc. – in the same room. We’ll never be quite sure who is overhearing the discourse. What does this do for our equity/inclusion work? How much have students depended on the (somewhat) secure barriers of our physical classrooms to encourage vulnerability? How many of us have installed some version of “what happens here stays here” to help this? While conversations about race are in my wheelhouse, and remain a concern in this no-walls environment – I am most intrigued by the damage that “helicopter/snowplow” parents can do in honest conversations about gender/sexuality…And while “conservative” parents are my chief concern – I know that the damage can come from the left too. If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kids racism or homophobia or transphobia – how much do we want their classmates’ parents piling on?”[iv]
Although this teacher points to student privacy as an issue with distance learning, it is actually content and ideology that he appears to be most concerned about. He is worried that parents will intervene and “damage” the outcome of his lesson if they overhear his instruction and class discussion about gender, sexuality, and racism, and that parents will damage their own children by contradicting the lessons. Ultimately, this teacher is worried about parents overhearing what he is teaching to their children. Shouldn’t parents be aware of what their children are being taught?
The reality is, these students are minors and parents are ultimately responsible, both legally and morally, for their well-being and education. Parents should be knowledgeable and aware of what course content is being taught to their children, regardless of whether the conversations take place in their own home or in a traditional classroom. Clearly, not all teachers are actively trying to brainwash students into secular humanism and undermine young people’s beliefs in the Bible’s teachings about race, sexuality, and gender. However, it is equally clear that some are, and thus far they have been able to, and continue to, insidiously indoctrinate an entire generation while parents are blissfully unaware of what is happening. Please bring attention to this issue by sharing this article with your friends. We are grateful that we do not currently have this issue in private homeschooling, since parents are in full control of directing their child’s education.
[i] Parke, Caleb. “Tennessee Mom Says Parents Asked to Sign ‘Ridiculous’ Waiver They Will Not Eavesdrop on Kids’ Online Lessons.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 22 Aug. 2020, http://www.foxnews.com/us/tennessee-parents-waiver-eavesdropping-online-lessons.
[ii] Parke, Caleb.
[iii] Katula, Paul. “No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in a Classroom.” Voxitatis Blog, 27 Sept. 2017, news.schoolsdo.org/2017/09/no-reasonable-expectation-of-privacy-in-a-classroom/.
[iv] Manfredi, Lucas. “Philadelphia Public School Teacher Worries about ‘Conservative’ Parents Listening in on Virtual Classes.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 11 Aug. 2020, http://www.foxnews.com/us/philadelphia-public-school-teacher-worries-about-conservative-parents-listening-in-on-virtual-classes.
This tweet by the Philadelphia teacher is no longer accessible to the public on Twitter.