If Your School District Pulls What One Tennessee District Has, Know Must Your Rights

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Distance learning for children in K-12 has caused some significant changes for parents, children, and teachers during the pandemic. For many parents, it has also raised some concerns over classroom content. This story from a school district in Tennessee should set alarm bells ringing.

The social justice movement has been pretty successful in pushing its curriculum down to the lowest grades. A startling example of this was shared by one of the founders of the news website Breaking911.com. After his daughter’s first day of 2nd grade, he announced she would not be returning to her school on Twitter.

He then provided context for his comments using pictures from the material used to teach. The blatant messages in this lesson are hard to miss.

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His tweets gained some traction, and he interviewed with 99.7 WTN in Nashville, where his daughter’s school was located. This exposure may be what prompted another district in Tennessee to try and shield their curriculum from the prying eyes of parents. According to the Tennessee Star:

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Parents of students who attend Rutherford County Schools (RCS) must agree not to monitor their child’s online classroom sessions.

Officials at all county schools are asking parents to sign forms agreeing not to watch these virtual classes.

Excuse me? Parents who are actively involved in their child’s learning in atypical ways are supposed to divert their eyes? Maybe they need to plug their ears? From the letter sent to parents by the school district:

“RCS strives to present these opportunities in a secure format that protects student privacy to the 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,” according to the form.

“RCS strongly discourages non student observation of online meetings due to the potential of confidential information about a student being revealed.”

Parents were more than a little upset. Is there something they aren’t supposed to see? Maybe content with the same messaging shared from the Nashville school district? The Rutherford school district responded via e-mail to the Star regarding concerns (emphasis mine):

“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,” Evans said.

“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.”

Somehow this seems evasive. As a parent who routinely observed my children’s classrooms from pre-school through sixth grade both as a room mother and a parent advocate, this is insane. What academic privacy is the district talking about? It should be easy to keep grades private, and I can’t imagine parents being overly interested in the performance of students other than their own.

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This type of debate is not just happening in Tennessee. A founding teacher at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia also took to Twitter to express concern over parent observation of virtual classes. His laments about parents, especially conservative parents, had been retweeted over 1,000 times before he locked his account. Retweeting means other people were sharing his concerns with their own followers.

Matthew Kay put this up for other teachers to respond to:

“So, this fall, virtual class discussions will have many potential spectators — parents, siblings, etc. — in the same room. We’ll never be quite sure who is overhearing the discourse. What does this do for our equity/inclusion work?”

If you need clarity of what equity and inclusion work means, you can see the pictures in the previous tweets. Matthew concluded his thread with:

“While conversations about race are in my wheelhouse, and remain a concern in this no-walls environment — I am most intrigued by the damage that ‘helicopter/snowplow’ parents can do in honest conversations about gender/sexuality,” he added. “And while ‘conservative’ parents are my chief concern — I know that the damage can come from the left too. If we are engaged in the messy work of destabilizing a kids [sic] racism or homophobia or transphobia — how much do we want their classmates’ parents piling on?”

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Another teacher gave her perspective to Campus Reform when they were interviewing young adults about what they knew about the 4th of July. She states explicitly she ignores the required curriculum to teach about racial equity:

This attitude should concern all parents. The critical social justice curriculum based on garbage products like the 1619 Project will warp an entire generation unless parents don’t object loudly and often. These types of programs teach students to focus on their outward identities rather than develop their own unique talents and ideas.

They also place blame for oppressing others onto particular students based solely on the color of their skin and other characteristics children have no control over. Categorizing people by what they are instead of who they are leads to place a no society wants to go. Studies in adults demonstrate these kinds of programs delivered in corporations increase resentment between groups. Imagine what they will do to children at a young age.

Parental involvement in a child’s education has long been known to improve their student’s academic performance. This fact may be why Section 1116 of the Every Student Succeeds Act addresses parental input into the curriculum and other areas of their children’s educational experience. Expressly, parents are guaranteed:

(C) reasonable access to staff, opportunities to volunteer and participate in their child’s class, and observation of classroom activities;

Parents have every right under this legislation to observe their child’s classroom. It is reasonable to assume they can access lessons being streamed into their own homes. In doing so, they can understand more fully what and how their children are being taught. Unfortunately, in the current environment, parents may end up being horrified. Hopefully, this new knowledge spurns both innovations in how we educate our children and a rejection of this dangerous and destructive social justice curriculum.

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