Teachers seek cellphone camera ban

Connecticut teachers want a law to ban cameras from classrooms, reports U.S. News. They’re worried about students using their cellphones to record teachers’ worst moments — or to record routine moments and edit them in nasty ways.

Union leaders say imposing limits on the use of cameras and other recording devices in school might be necessary to prevent damaging videos and pictures from ending up on Facebook and YouTube.

The Hartford Courant reports that there are thousands of these videos online. One pokes fun at a Connecticut high school physics teacher who is shown “flailing his arms, short-hopping across the classroom, then pushing against the wall” in an attempt to demonstrate how molecules move. The problem is that the surreptitiously shot video doesn’t carry the teacher’s explanation of the principles, only the sound of instrumental music.

. . . Legal experts argue that teachers have a limited expectation of privacy in the classroom.

I’m not sure what I think about the proposed law.

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  1. Marshall says:

    Legal experts argue that teachers have a limited expectation of privacy in the classroom.

    What a perfectly asinine idea.
    Teachers, who are public employees, while doing the job for which they are paid (teaching), have an expectation of privacy?

    I can’t wait for a teacher who is accused of having sex with a student to use that argument…

    As for the idea of banning cameras, why not?
    Many schools already ban most everything else in classrooms.
    Cell phones, pagers, audio recorders, iPods, skateboards.. (the list goes on and on)

  2. What am I missing here? I see no legitimate reason for students to use cameras in class (unless as part of a planned instructional sequence). If the teacher is doing something illegal, the eyewitness accounts of multiple students should be enough to bring the teacher to justice. If the teacher is doing something educationally unsound, the administration had better have better ways of finding out about it and dealing with it than relying on students’ cameras. The potential for disruption is so great if cameras (or phone cameras) are allowed in class that I simply see no reason to permit it.

  3. Miller T. Smith says:

    Let the technology all in! I want to put cameras with full audio in my class so parents can look in on the web and I can have proof of bad behavior and proof that I did nothing wrong.

    Now kids can post any video they want to of me. I don’t care. They had better no edit it to present me in a false light. Their parents have money in my district and I would just love to get my hands on some…

  4. Michael E. Lopez says:

    We need a law for this?

    How about we just have a school show some frackin’ backbone and say “No cameras allowed”?

    That said, I’m not sure that cameras are necessarily a bad idea. One of the byproducts of the digital revolution is that society is having to come to grips with knowledge about a lot of things that previously went on silently in the background. Frankly, I think it’s overwhelming our social consciousness a bit, absorbing all this new data. But the end result will probably be good.

  5. What Miller said.

    Why not have faculty “fight fire with fire” if they are so upset about this – bring their own video cameras to class, video the kids being disruptive and rude and (if they think it will have an effect) send the resulting video to the kids’ parents.

    But yeah, why are we even having this discussion? Students can’t bring boom boxes into class – or their bikes – or a little refrigerator on wheels – or an elephant. Teachers may have “limited rights to privacy” but I’d argue that students don’t have a right to be disruptive, and having some kid filming the teacher with malicious intent could probably be construed as disruptive.

  6. LAUSD Teacher says:

    How about acknowledging that cellphones may be the cheapest computers we have in the classroom? They’re already there and parents (not the schools) have paid for them. If used in instruction, students have easy access to cameras, videocameras, the internet for research, classroom polls (via pollanywhere.com).

    If the problem is students using cell phones inappropriately, how does banning them from school solve the problem? We need to teach the students to appropriately use them.

  7. It’s very hard to find a cellphone without a build-in camera.

    I don’t have a problem with banning cellphone cameras in class. I gather that a certain number of students cause planned disturbances in class, because they want to film the ruckus. That’s an unnecessary distraction. Banning their use puts to rest the debate of, “well, this use is fine, but that use is not…”

    Consider the phenomenon of “happy slapping,” as it’s called in the UK. On this side of the Atlantic, I’ve heard of a local case of bullying, in which a student’s pleas for help were filmed by cellphone-wielding bullies, to post on the web. Not all uses of technology are innocent, or bring out our better natures.

  8. If I see a cell phone out in my classroom, I give the student one warning to put it away. If I see it again–at any point during the semester–I confiscate it for the rest of class. I usually don’t see them a third time.

    And, of course, I make exceptions for those whose jobs require it, or where family issues make them handy (illness, imminent births/deaths, children, etc).

  9. It seems like there’d be a different standard for secretly recording, potentially for rebroadcast on the internet, than just whether the people you taped had an legal expectation of privacy at the time did the recording.

    I think teachers would be more comfortable with being openly recorded all the time than with the idea of being secretly recorded in snippets that potentially misrepresent the actual overall situation.

    Be honest, even if you knew you were in public at work, would you be comfortable with a co-worker secretly taping you and posting videos on the web? It’s just creepy.

    The fact that it’s students recording doesn’t change the creepiness.

  10. David Cohen says:

    Just as teachers have a limited expectation of privacy in the classroom, students and teachers all have a limited expectation of free speech. The demands of the setting involve some trade-offs. The teacher’s ability to manage the classroom is of paramount importance.

    It should also be noted that while the teacher’s rights are relevant, the other students in the room or at a school should also be protected by policies protecting all, especially minors, from being filmed and “published” without consent.

  11. Students being recorded without consent is protected by federal law.

    I certainly don’t want to be recorded by anybody’s cell phone without my consent, but I don’t have a lot of expectations of privacy per say. I often wonder how something I say is going to translate to 20 different dinner conversations that evening.

    Contemporary students seem to have a weak grasp of the private vs. the public.

  12. Donalbain says:

    What sort of school allows phones out anyway? The policy in my school is simple: If your phone is out during lessons, it is confiscated. Once it is confiscated, it remains in school until a parent or guardian comes to claim it.

  13. Dick Eagleson says:

    Mr. Smith, above, has the right idea.

    Public school teaching is public business conducted on public property by public employees and paid for by public funds. What the heck is wrong with public access to the process? I don’t think video cameras in class should be banned, I think they should be mandatory. There should be at least one camera with a fisheye lens or any other arrangement of two or more cameras with narrower fields of view in every classroom. Omnibus coverage. Ditto the halls. Ditto everywhere but the toilet stalls in the bathrooms. The feeds should be streamed and archived on-line and publicly accessible via web browser.

    There seem to be only two groups who would be adversely impacted by such a reform:

    1. Lazy, incompetent and/or abusive teachers and administrators.

    2. Deliberately disruptive and/or criminal students.

    Both such groups should, IMHO, be as adversely affected as humanly possible by any means necessary.

    Disruptive/criminal students don’t have much in the way of formal organizational backing in public schools around which to form effective opposition to such a proposal. The same, alas, cannot be said of the incompetent/malfeasant staffers. They have quite effective unions who can be reliably counted upon to do anything necessary to preserve their undeserved jobs – as they have done since the inception of widespread public employee unionization in the early 1960’s. With the cost of internet and mass storage technology coming down every year, though, it seems likely some jurisdiction somewhere, probably in a state with an initiative process, will implement such a policy sometime in the next few years. Maybe even here in politically and educationally benighted California.

  14. I think it’s revealing that they want cell cameras banned instead of cell phones in general.

  15. I’d like cell phone banned completely, but oddly it’s very hard to get parents on board with this idea. A great many parents these days think that they should be able to communicate with their children anytime they want to. In the olden days, parents seemed to assume that a communication that didn’t qualify as an emergency to call the front office of the school about could wait until the parent next saw the student, but today, not so much. It’s strange to me and I often wonder about what it means about society and parenting today. Personally, I don’t think schools are that different to have merited a parent needing to have constant access to the student during the day.

    I think the focus on cameras is that teachers feel comfortable monitoring students to see if they are on task generally to keep them off phone during the day, but they have less confidence that they can successful recognize that the student is deliberately being secretive about filming.