The widespread utilization of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic is generating a new supply of controversy around school discipline. In the event across the country, schools have punished students for allowing glimpses of guns or Trump signs to be visible within the backgrounds of their video feed during remote lessons.
In October 2021, a 12-year-old middle-school student, Cole Mayer, was taking part in a remote-learning class in Columbia, Illinois, when he stood up, revealing a gun behind his bed. An instructor captured a screenshot of the moment, and the school dispatched law enforcement to Mayer's home to investigate. After discovering that it had been merely a pellet gun, the police officers didn't article a report and actually conversed with the boy about dove hunting. School officials initially considered expelling Mayer but instead chose to suspend him for 10 days.
Similarly, in Louisiana, 9-year-old Ka'Mauri Harrison was suspended for six days through the Jefferson Parish School District. In September 2021, the 4th grader was participating in a digital class and taking a web-based test when certainly one of his brothers tripped on the BB gun on the ground of the shared bedroom. Harrison moved the gun taken care of but left the barrel visible towards the camera. The teacher tried to get his attention, but because Harrison was going for a test, the student had muted the sound on his computer. The college district defended the choice to suspend the boy by saying he had violated its policy against having weapons at school. Inside a behavior report, the Louisiana Department of Education said that the student's possession of the BB gun was a violation of federal law. The district school board didn't permit him to appeal the suspension. Ka'Mauri Harrison's family sued in federal court, claiming a civil-rights violation. Under U.S. Top court doctrine, schools must provide rudimentary due-process rights to students receiving suspensions of fewer than 10 days. Harrison's attorney asserts that the school didn't meet those requirements. In November 2021, in response to the school board's intransigence, the Louisiana legislature passed the Ka'Mauri Harrison Act, which increases due-process protections for students facing disciplinary measures during remote learning. Too, Louisiana's attorney general has filed a motion in support of Harrison's lawsuit, arguing the school board repeatedly violated state law.
These cases indicate the possible lack of clarity round the question of how far schools can justifiably extend their policies into private homes. Put one other way, the remote teaching environment throughout the pandemic has raised the issue of what counts as \”the classroom.\” Many families do allow guns, whether toy or real, in their homes. These families may find it intrusive to possess schools treating their houses as extensions from the physical school. What's more, the disciplinary actions in these instances neglect to take into consideration the cruel circumstances both parents and children are facing with remote learning. Ka'Mauri Harrison, for instance, shares his bedroom with two brothers. Common sense and compassion would suggest that youngsters really should not be punished for not keeping a room as tidy as school officials might like. Zero tolerance, which hardly makes sense in normal times, is even less workable throughout a pandemic.
Students have also found themselves in danger for displaying Trump signs during distance learning. In October 2021, for instance, a high school chemistry teacher at Toms River High School North in Ocean County, New Jersey, kicked out a student, Anthony Ribeiro, who refused to take down a Trump banner from his bedroom wall, based on local press accounts. The teacher said there was \”no room\” for politics in his classroom, Ribeiro told the Asbury Park Press. An English teacher also asked Ribeiro to take on the banner during an online class since it may cause a disruption. Similarly, in September 2021, a chemistry teacher in Colusa, California, threatened to remove a student in the digital classroom if the student didn't defeat a Trump banner. A student chose to log out before the teacher could eject him.
In both cases, the teachers have the symptoms of violated their school districts' policies as well as U.S. Top court doctrine. In the New Jersey instance, officials later acknowledged that the student had not violated school rules. As well as in California, a student handbook said the district \”respects students' rights to express ideas and opinions, take stands on issues, and support causes, even when such speech is controversial or unpopular.\” That policy had allowed students to put on items such as political buttons and insignias while while attending college personally. The Supreme Court has stated that, under the Constitution, schools are only able to restrict student speech when it causes a substantial disruption, violates the rights of others, is lewd, is school sponsored, or is pro-drug. While Trump evokes strong feelings, neither of those cases fits into among those categories. Simply claiming that student speech may cause an interruption is insufficient reason to limit it, particularly if a school allows other viewpoints to become displayed. If a Trump banner actually caused an online lesson to descend right into a flame war in the Zoom chatroom, then schools could conceivably require students to have a plain background during such lessons. But picking and selecting which perspectives to censor violates First Amendment jurisprudence, which requires government officials to stay neutral toward varying viewpoints and content.
Instead of suspending students or kicking them from class, teachers and school officials would do well to make use of these events as teachable moments by not overreacting and by reminding students and themselves the Constitution applies, even in online classrooms throughout a pandemic.