Keep cameras in the classrooms

One of the windows opened by the Covid pandemic for the rest of the outside world was one that allowed a glimpse into the activities and proclivities of classroom teachers as they presented their lessons – and sometimes their opinions – during Zoom lectures and other monitored online presentations. 

       Now, with firsthand knowledge of some of the extremist tendencies of some teachers in charge of instructing our students, it’s time for parents to demand to be able to tune-in at will to those classes via camera systems which are in many cases already in place from the Covid pandemic.

       Some of the worst of those teacher interactions have been viral across the Internet for months. Local residents need look no further than the recent bizarre behavior of 5th District Representative Mark Samsel (R) in a Wellsville high school art classroom in which he was substitute teaching to see the reasoning. In this case students with their own sense that something was awry recorded their own sporadic video of Samsel’s strange and inappropriate behavior, and those videos have been viewed broadly. But because they’re segmented between cameras from several different students there’s no recording that shows exactly what happened with continuity.

       The value of classroom cameras goes beyond providing evidence of such outlandish goings on. Videos recorded during online instruction have relayed proof of a disturbing tendency among some teachers to imbue their lessons with their own political views and personal biases, forcing students to swallow those points of view along with the mandated curriculum their parents and school districts are paying to support. That’s unethical and points to a broader concern that classrooms are being used not just to instruct, but also to mold the collective young mind of America toward a certain political landscape.

       Take for instance the case of Alisa Piro, an English teacher at San Marcos High School north of Los Angeles, CA., who lambasted her students over racial equity (…you don’t need a white student union Jake – you get everything!…) and dared their parents to come talk to her about the need to continue online learning instead of in person classroom instruction – after all, she huffed, she’s the professional and they’re only parents. Seems like a long way from analyzing Chaucer’s seven-line stanza form.

       Then there’s the teacher at Poynette High School in Wisconsin who destroys the idea of ‘follow the science’ with a vicious rant against a vaccinated student who refused to wear a mask in class. (“I don’t care if you’re vaccinated, you little dink! I don’t want to get sick and die! There’s other people you can infect just because you’re vaccinated. You’re not a big man on campus – quit walking around here like you have a stick up your butt”). This video of course captured by another student in the class.

       Online learning applications have even caught outright racist rants by teachers against students. A Black family in Palmdale, Calif., filed a claim against the school district after a Zoom call with a teacher to discuss their son’s problems with online learning. The teacher thought the call was over and went on a half-hour rant on what she believed the real problems were “His parents, that’s what kind of pieces of s— they are. Black. He’s Black. They’re a Black family” she’s heard saying at one point. “Your son has learned to lie to everybody and make excuses – that nothing is his fault. This is what Black people do. This is what Black people do. White people do it too but Black people do it way more,” she continues.

       Schools have long invited parents to sit in on their child’s class to observe, but everyone knows that changes the entire dynamic of the classroom and doesn’t give a fair representation of the day-to-day for either the students or the teacher.

       Modern camera systems are inexpensive, dependable, and already in place in many cases. They can continue to offer a view to parents of real time activities and classroom discussions with the click of a mouse, exactly as they did during the pandemic outbreak. Additionally the school can record with a birdseye view in case recordings are needed.

       It should become a priority for public school districts to put the current system into use for this purpose. It’s clear public classrooms have been kept sealed from parental view too long.

Dane Hicks is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the United States Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA. He is the author of novels "The Skinning Tree" and "A Whisper For Help." As publisher of the Anderson County Review in Garnett, KS., he is a recipient of the Kansas Press Association's Boyd Community Service Award as well as more than 60 awards for excellence in news, editorial and photography.