A bill that would create a task force to study the impact of cellphone cameras and video-recording devices in Connecticut classrooms has sparked a debate between educators who say the captured content can be harmful to their careers and those who say that restricting what images students can document might lead to battles over free speech.
The state's largest teachers union is leading the push for state lawmakers to intervene. Union leaders say imposing limits on the use of cameras and other recording devices in school might be necessary to prevent damaging videos and pictures from ending up on Facebook and YouTube. The Hartford Courant reports that there are thousands of these videos online. One pokes fun at a Connecticut high school physics teacher who is shown "flailing his arms, short-hopping across the classroom, then pushing against the wall" in an attempt to demonstrate how molecules move. The problem is that the surreptitiously shot video doesn't carry the teacher's explanation of the principles, only the sound of instrumental music. The teacher, who had no knowledge of the video's existence until the newspaper contacted him, has since asked a former student to take it off the Web. Still, the union says that secret recordings of teachers are an "increasing concern" and that they can hurt teachers' reputations and put minors at risk.
Legal experts argue that teachers have a limited expectation of privacy in the classroom. They say that attempts to regulate what students can film or record can provoke free speech challenges. In some cases, students have used recording devices to capture teachers behaving inappropriately. A Connecticut high school math teacher was suspended in 2006 after a cellphone video that appeared on the Internet showed him hurling a homophobic slur at a student.
The state legislature is likely to decide whether to move forward with the bill by April 6.
Do you think that students should not be allowed to bring cellphones and other recording devices to school?