A New Jersey teen says he was kicked out of his online chemistry class after he refused his teacher's demand to take down a banner expressing support for President Donald Trump, the New York Post has reported.
The student, Anthony Ribeiro, is a 17-year-old honour student from Toms River High School North. Due to school shutdowns implemented due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he was attending his chemistry class online from his room.
Given the fact that he was in his own room, he refused to comply with the demands of his teacher, Andrew Gilman, to take down the banner. The banner was a birthday gift from Ribeiro's aunt.
Ribeiro implied that the teacher was acting to humiliate him, pointing out that he was the first person to enter the online class and faced no initial pushback from his teacher, who had looked up at the screen when he joined. "Then when he was taking attendance, he came to my name and there were at least 16 to 20 people on and he said, 'Anthony, take the sign down right now, there is no room for politics in my classroom,'" according to Anthony.
According to Ribeiro, the teacher told him "'If you’re not going to get up and take it down, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the class for today.' I waved goodbye, and I was gone."
Despite the teacher's insistence that in his classroom "there is no room for politics," Ribeiro says that his class was told at the beginning of the year by his teacher that Democrats are the "only choice" for those who oppose climate change.
Ribeiro also said that Gilman was not the only one of his teachers who requested that he take down the banner, stating that his English teacher made the same request, albeit much more politely. Worried that his grades may suffer, he agreed to take down the banner for that class.
The school agreed that the actions of the teacher were inappropriate, with the district noting that he did not violate any rules. The district also says that they "have worked with and are continuing to work with all involved parties to resolve the issue and move forward." Ribeiro's mother, however, demanded an apology from the teacher.
The incident draws further attention to privacy concerns related to online schooling. Critics of school shutdowns argue that the rapid shift to online schooling puts students' privacy at risk, saying that contracted companies such as Zoom and Google may engage in data mining without student knowledge.
Many big tech companies have already faced harsh criticism for their mishandling of their users' data, with Google and YouTube having paid $170 million for illegally collecting the information of children without the consent of parents.
Critics have also suggested that privacy concerns are especially pressing for students of lower socio-economic status, as wealthier school districts will have more of an ability to fund cybersecurity initiatives on behalf of their students.
Others have raised the alarm with regard to teachers' ability to see inside students' houses. Last month, another New Jersey student had the police called on her after the teacher spotted a toy gun in her room. A Louisiana fourth grader was suspended for having a BB gun seen on screen. Ribeiro joins a growing list of students punished for what they keep in the privacy of their own homes.
Ribeiro told the Asbury Park Press "I hope it never happens again. No matter if it's Trump or Biden, people have a right to express their opinion."