As students across the nation attend school online via video sharing programs due to COVID-19 restrictions on in-person education, government officials are “being allowed carte blanche visual access” to students’ private homes without warrants, raising Fourth Amendment concerns, John Whitehead wrote for OpEdNews in September 2020. School officials, including teachers and “anyone at the school on the other end of that virtual connection,” could use anything seen or recorded as “fair game for scrutiny and investigation,” not only by school officials but also by other agencies, including law enforcement, social services, animal control, or the Department of Homeland Security.
In Colorado, Whitehead reported, a 12-year-old student was suspended after showing a toy gun on his screen during an online art class; and police arrived at the home of an 11-year-old Maryland student after a school official saw a BB gun in his bedroom during an online class. These cases show, White wrote, how law enforcement officials can “sidestep the Fourth Amendment’s requirement for probable cause and a court-issued warrant in order to spy us on in the privacy of our homes.”
In an August 2020 report for Insider, Eleanor Goldberg described how schools’ online monitoring of students during the pandemic is leading to “mounting stress” for parents because “school officials may call social services agencies if children miss numerous online classes.” As Goldberg reported, these reports “disproportionately impact Black, Latino, and low-income families.”
John Whitehead, “Virtual School Hazards of a Police State Education During COVID-19.” OpEdNews, September 15, 2020, www.opednews.com/articles/2/Virtual-School-Dangers-Th-by-John-Whitehead-Covid-19_Education_Police_Surveillance-200915-799.html.
Eleanor Goldberg, “Parents of Children who Miss Virtual Classes are Getting Reported to Social Services,” Insider, August 19 2020, https://www.insider.com/students-who-miss-virtual-classes-may-get-reported-state-2020-8.
Student Researchers: Cameron McAtee and Nathan Mallet (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)