Florida teachers push back against cameras in classrooms
Florida -- House bill 1055 is receiving pushback from the Florida Education Association as it makes its way through the state’s legislature after being introduced by Rep. Bob Rommel (R-Naples) and Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Lithia).
If passed, the new law would require teachers to wear microphones and make cameras present in the classroom. The cameras would record footage from all angles of a classroom, requiring students and teachers to be notified of their installation.
The bill states that only school principals would have general access to the recordings. In the event of an incident of “abuse or neglect” by a teacher or fellow student, which the bill aims to prevent, the parents of the students involved would also be granted access to the recordings. Those outside the scope of an investigation would be blurred.
But the primary concern of the bill's oppositionists is the threat it poses to student and teacher privacy. Students don’t have the choice to attend school because it’s mandatory, which adds another layer to this controversial bill.
“I guess it’s different in a school because it’s compulsory that students have to go to school,” said James Todd, an associate professor of politics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. “People are not accustomed to being recorded in situations like that inside a school classroom.”
The cameras are believed to be an asset that could help resolve issues in certain cases and shed light on discrepancies.
“Technically the teacher can do whatever they want when there isn’t another adult watching,” said Danika Mays, who is studying education at Florida Atlantic University and plans to teach in the West Palm Beach area. “It would show us when teachers are using bad language or really being rude to the students, especially for elementary schools where kids usually don’t have phones and if something is happening, they won’t tell an adult because they are afraid.”
Another concern is how the bill could affect teachers in the classroom. With the prospect of mandated classroom recordings, teachers may be forced to approach the classroom in a different way.
“Teachers might censor themselves rather than saying what they really believe to be true,” Todd said. “The curriculum wars are swirling all around us to make sure that critical race theory is not being taught or some other disfavored subject.”
If the bill is approved, school districts would be required to vote by Jan. 1, 2023 on whether or not it should be implemented in their classrooms.
By Aaron Heckmann and Jordan Wolfe