A Republican lawmaker in Iowa has proposed a bill that would require school districts in the state to install cameras in virtually every public school classroom.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Norlin Mommsen (R), has been criticized by teachers groups and union leaders for being an invasion of students’ and teachers’ privacy. The legislation represents yet another attempt by far right lawmakers to ban lessons on race, LGBTQ identities and social justice in schools — this time by monitoring teachers who may be engaging in discussions on such topics with their students.
The bill would require cameras in all classrooms except physical education or special education classes. Recordings would be livestreamed and available for parents or guardians to watch on the internet at any time.
The bill mandates that only parents or guardians can access the livestreams — but it doesn’t contain language restricting parents from sharing the links with others, and does not impose punishments on parents if they choose to do so.
However, the legislation would dole out punishments for teachers or administrators who don’t install the video hardware, or who otherwise impede parents from monitoring their children’s classroom at any moment. School employees who don’t comply with the measure would be fined, facing a deduction from their paycheck of up to 5 percent for each week that they don’t abide by the rule.
Conservative lawmakers throughout the U.S. have been introducing similar proposals in their own states. Earlier this year, a bill was proposed in Florida that would allow each district in the state to decide whether they wanted to install cameras in classrooms. The bill would allow parents to access the video at any time, so that they could investigate for themselves vaguely defined “incidents” involving teachers.
Right-wing parent groups in Nevada have pushed for similar surveillance measures in schools, even proposing that teachers be forced to wear body cameras in classrooms. Last year, Missouri state Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin (R) also suggested that teachers should be recorded, claiming that cameras could serve as a tool to ensure that critical race theory isn’t being taught in classrooms.
Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek said that the bill is “completely outrageous and dangerous.” In an email to NBC News, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, similarly blasted the bill as being intrusive:
Some politicians around the country want to limit not only what history our kids can learn about and what books they can read, censor the truth of our history in some cases, and, now in Iowa, they want to install classroom cameras for live monitoring of teachers. Instead of wasting public funds on monitoring equipment, we should employ additional qualified professionals, reduce class sizes, and provide more programming that helps students acquire the skills they need.
Educators also weighed in on the proposal on social media.
“Cameras don’t belong in classrooms and it has little to do with teachers, but everything to do with the privacy of children,” said Jess Piper, a literature teacher in Missouri and a Democratic candidate for the state legislature. “No one has the right to hear my child’s thoughts or view her face or body while she is trying to learn in a public classroom.”
The Modest Teacher, a Twitter account that focuses on education issues, also weighed in on the privacy rights of students.
“Imagine a student with anxiety sitting in a classroom with cameras, knowing that at any given moment a parent at home could [sic] watching and listening to their every move,” the account said.
Meanwhile, a teacher in California threatened to leave her job if a similar proposal was enacted in her state.
“Just putting this out there, if classroom cameras come to California, I quit,” that teacher said.
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