Parents, Teachers Argue Over Appropriateness of Cameras in Classrooms

Parents, Teachers Argue Over Appropriateness of Cameras in Classrooms empty classroom (Dreamstime)

By Brian Freeman | Monday, 23 August 2021 09:33 AM

An increasing number of worried parents nationwide have begun to advocate for cameras in the classroom in order for them to monitor what children are learning, as well as a way to improve safety, reinforce accountability, and cut down on cheating and other bad behavior, the Washington Examiner reported on Monday.

Critics, however, counter that surveillance systems undermine teachers and could easily be hacked by those with nefarious intentions. Teachers unions add that cameras in classrooms would lead to "nuisance lawsuits" by conservative organizations that don't want children learning subjects such as critical race theory.

Joel Withers, a father of two elementary school-aged children in Virginia, told the Examiner that he's "not comfortable with complete strangers watching [my children's] every move," emphasizing that as a parent he is worried about "about who else could be watching."

But other parents point out that cameras could help stop bad incidents from happening in school.

For example, Lyndsay Emmons told WTVD that cameras in her 4-year-old daughter's preschool classroom in North Carolina might have prevented an incident that led to the suspension and eventual resignation of a teacher.

Five months after enrolling her autistic daughter in a public school, Emmons said she received a call from the principal, who told her the teacher had been suspended after allegedly putting a weighted blanket over her child's face in an effort to get her to go to sleep.

Emmons's daughter is nonverbal and most likely would not have been able to inform anyone what had taken place.

Emmons said that if cameras had been installed, the incident would have never occurred, stressing that "something's wrong with the system. We need cameras. … Anywhere that a child does not have a voice should have a camera."

Some states such as Texas, West Virginia, and Georgia have passed laws either permitting or requiring cameras in specific classrooms, according to the Examiner.

In Missouri, state Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin said that cameras could help monnitor teachers who might try to advance critical race theory. This year, 26 states introduced or passed bills that restrict how racial issues are taught.

Critical race theory is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds that the U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.

But Glenn Sacks, who teaches social studies at James Monroe High School and represents United Teachers Los Angeles, contends that cameras would do more harm than good.

"Cameras in every classroom will not only make it more difficult for teachers to create an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere, it will also undo efforts to get our students to fully participate in the lesson," he wrote in an op-ed in RT.

He added that if cameras are allowed in classrooms, "well-funded conservative groups that oppose teachers' unions and public education will scour the recordings looking for teachers' words they can take out of context and highlight as wrongs."

He stressed that this would lead to a situation where "like-minded legal advocacy groups" would file "nuisance lawsuits that harass and drain funds from unions and school districts alike."