Florida lawmakers are debating a bill that would allow schools districts to put cameras in classrooms and microphones on teachers.
It would allow school districts to install video cameras in classrooms for the purposes of recording an “incident” — which it defines as abuse or neglect of a student by an employee or another student.
Parents of a child involved in an incident must be allowed to review the video within a week, with a stipulation that the identity of other students who aren’t involved must be blurred.
Teachers in schools that adopt cameras would be required to wear microphones. Cameras must be placed at the front of the classroom, capable of monitoring video and audio from all areas except a restroom or other changing areas.
Parents, students and employees would have to be notified before cameras are installed.
Principals would be in charge of all recordings, which must be kept for three months or “until the conclusion of any investigation or any administrative or legal proceedings.” After that, the video must be destroyed.
The cameras cannot be livestreamed or continually monitored, and videos cannot be used for teacher evaluations.
Anna Fusco, Broward Teachers Union President, exemplified on this bill and stated that a handful of Broward County Public Schools already has them.
“That is happening right now,” she said, though under limited circumstances.
According to the Broward County Public Schools website, parents of a student can request that a camera system with visual and audio capability be placed in a classroom if the student has a disability and is an individualized program in which the majority of students has a disability. That’s permitted under Florida House Bill 149, which was passed in July.
“Everything that happens in the classroom is monitored, watched and heard all day. There is absolutely zero privacy for anybody, even when … the teacher needs to do a parent-conference on the phone,” Fusco said.
She says it’s not necessary to video monitor educators at work.
“It’s not in every classroom. Not every parent has exercised that right. We have parents that don’t want that. It’s kind of two-fold.
“If one parent wants it, the camera goes in the room. If the other 10 parents don’t want it, they don’t have a say,” she said.
“It can be looked at any time. We don’t know how they’re going to keep in in record, so they never get that piece out. And also the funding — there is no funding,” Fusco said.
However, should there be a window into a student’s classroom in the first place?
“You want to play Big Brother every moment? That’s not how society should be. We need to get back to where we have trust, we have value, we have faith and we have conversations and we can work things out if something happens,” Fusco said.
She warns that the proposal could discourage even more people from turning to teaching in Florida.
The newly proposed bill requires all school districts to complete and vote on whether to implement classroom cameras by Jan. 1, 2023.