Culture Aug 21, 2020 2:30 PM EST

School district demands that parents not observe remote learning classroom

Parents in Tennessee were surprised to receive a letter home instructing them not to observe their children's virtual lessons.

School district demands that parents not observe remote learning classroom
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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Parents in Tennessee were surprised to receive a letter home instructing them not to observe their children's virtual lessons.

Schools in that state had reopened, but were shuttered again after a few cases of COVID-19 were reported, and children returned home to embark upon remote learning programs.

It was the Rutherford County School (RCS) district that sent home the letter, telling parents that they must agree not to "monitor their child's online classroom sessions." This according to the Tennessee Star, which obtained a copy of the letter.

It read: "RCS strives to present these opportunities in a secure format that protects student privacy to greatest extent possible, however because these meetings will occur virtually RCS is limited in its ability to fully control certain factors such as non-student observers that may be present in the home of a student participating in the virtual meeting."

Additionally, it "strongly discourages non student observation of online meetings due to the potential of confidential information about a student being revealed."

Parents are informed that they must agree to the condition that any "violation of this agreement may result in RCS removing my child from the virtual meeting."

The Star obtained a comment from James Evans, an RCS spokesperson, who said that "We are aware of the concern that has been raised about this distance-learning letter that was sent to parents.

"The intent was not to prevent parents from being involved with their children during distance learning, but it was intended to protect the academic privacy of other students in the classroom who are visible during certain virtual class sessions."

"We have issued new guidance to principals that parents can assist their children during virtual group lessons with permission of the instructor but should refrain from sharing or recording any information about other students in the classroom," Evans said.

However, concerns have been raised recently, by both teachers and parents, about the nature of remote learning instruction and just what curriculum students are being taught. As parents got a bird's eye view of classroom lessons while observing virtual lessons this spring, many were surprised to find just how much social justice indoctrination was being imparted to students.

There have been teachers who are concerned that, as parents have a bigger window into the classroom, teachers will have to find better ways to bring these lessons to kids, while bypassing their potentially conservative, obstructionist parents.

One Philadelphia teacher, Matt R. Kay, wrote about his concerns that "virtual class discussions will have many spectators," including parents, and that teachers will "never quite be sure who is overhearing the discourse." He asks "What does this do for our equity/inclusion work?"

His tweet thread was retweeted, commented and liked by many educators. Parents, however, grew concerned that teachers were intending to hide their lessons from parents and guardians.

While RCS stated that this measure, of asking parents not to observe lessons, was to protect other students from those prying eyes, it is unclear if there could be additional motivations from educators who are interested in peddling social justice without parental oversight.

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