Online School: No Policy in Place to Address Privacy in the Home

This is a new age, and with it comes many unknowns. In the case of one 11 year old, this took quite a turn, as he found the police knocking at his bedroom door.

It all started as he was online with his teacher on a google meet class in Baltimore Maryland. Apparently his teacher saw a weapon, toggled around the room as much as he could, took a snapshot of his bedroom and sent it to the Principal. The Principal proceeded to send it to the safety officer. Instead of talking the parent, who is a Navy veteran, and look the student up who happens to be working up to his Eagle Scout, he decided that it would be prudent to call the police in this situation.

The police came to home in a very apologetic manner and the mother , who did not have to let them in as they did not have a search warrant,but did so and they proceeded to search the home for 20 minutes to see the BB gun hanging nicely on the wall was in order apologized once again and left the residence.

You can imagine 11 year olds dismay at finding several policemen invading his space. He said he felt betrayed by his teacher who he thought was his friend. A youth who will be forever catious about motives from authority figures.

There are no real steadfast rules reagarding online home schooling. We are making something that is supposed to be in a public place and putting it into somewhere that is private. Do teachers have a right to take still pictures of students without permission? What if they coerce students to show their house or safe, jewelry for ill intent? Children can be manipulated by someone they trust. There may be rules that need to be set up to mitigate and protect on both sides to avoid issues during this period of time that we are struggling with.

I spoke toJohn Watson, of the Evergreen Education Group, who says he is not aware of policies related to privacy issues. One reason for this may be that, pre-pandemic, the use of real-time video among online schools was actually quite low. Online schools use much more asynchronous discussion than real-time video. Also, even in the absence of formal policies, teachers in online schools tend to be much better trained and supported in online teaching than the teachers in mainstream schools that have been forced to shift to remote instruction. It’s hard to imagine an experienced online teacher and school leaders reporting a bb gun to the police. This is new territory for mainstream schools.

it is clear that in this new normal, policies will have to be formulated to protect privacy of families as well as safety of minors who may be prone to manipulation. There will certanly be much to sort out in the locall and State kevels in the coming months.

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