JEFFERSON PARISH, La. — The Jefferson Parish School System adopts a policy that critics say requires parents to give up their right to privacy to be a part of virtual learning, but one the school board stands by.
Under the new interim virtual learning policy, parents will be asked to sign a three-page document acknowledging the online policy as it relates to discipline and expectations.
The policy essentially extends the school campus to any area that can be seen through the camera on a student’s computer. At the meeting Wednesday night there was a lot of talk as to whether that’s constitutional.
Scott St. John, the Deputy Solicitor General with Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Office was at the meeting and says the policy is unconstitutional and too vague.
“What is pretty clear is that the state cannot put a camera into the home and just treat it as a school,” said St. John.
This all stems from two recent cases of a BB gun being seen in the bedrooms of two young students during virtual learning. Before a policy was in place, 11-year-old Tomie Brown and 9-year-old Ka’mauri Harrison were suspended and recommend for expulsion from Jefferson Parish schools.
In Harrison’s case, a state law was passed during the recent special legislative session which directs school districts to hold policy meetings on virtual learning and create review committees.
St. John says the board isn’t following the law as directed. Meanwhile the attorney who represents those two students, Chelsea Cusimano calls the policy rushed and not thought out.
“It’s as if they wrote this to catch more parents and when it happens again say Look you blindly signed this document right here and you waived your privacy rights under the constitution,” said Cusimano.
The school board maintains that a policy is needed, and this is the right path.
“We’re encouraging parents and cautioning them that what’s in plain view of peers and teachers in the virtual classroom may be subject to discipline,” said chief legal counsel Patricia Adams.
The school system released a statement in adopting the policy, saying in part “The School Board has full authority to approve policies, including discipline policies, that it deems in the best interest of students enrolled in district schools.”
With this policy now in place, Cusimano expects legal action to follow.
Jefferson Parish Schools released the following statement on the policy:
"The district recognizes that virtual learning is a new experience for students and families . While the district expressly stated at the start of the 2020-21 school year that the Student Code of Conduct applies in the virtual classroom , it is recommending approval of an Interim Virtual Discipline Policy to ensure that families have a clear understanding of expectations regarding student conduct in the virtual classroom and the consequences for a student's failure to meet
those expectations. Conduct that is unacceptable in the regular classroom is, typically, equally unacceptable in the virtual classroom. However, the Interim Virtual Discipline Policy allows for the location where a student is learning to be taken into consideration when determining discipline . Additionally , this policy calls for an initial consultation with parents , prior to the imposition of discipline, for minor infractions of the Code of Conduct.
The School Board has full authority to approve policies , including discipline policies , that it deems in the best interest of students enrolled in district schools . Under La. R.S. 17:416.8, the discipline review committee is empowered to "review all school board policies and make recommendations to the school board for appropriate revisions to such policies. " Thus , the Interim Virtual Discipline Policy will be subject to review by the discipline review committee which may recommend to the School Board any revisions to the Virtual Discipline Policy that it deems appropriate."
Read the full policy here: