FURDEK: In-class recordings hold teachers accountable

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Web_Furdek_mugshotBY MADDY FURDEK
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California state law prohibits the recording of a conversation unless both parties have given their consent.

This law also applies to classrooms, where students are not allowed to record video or audio of other students and teachers without consent – no matter the situation.  

As a result, this law prohibits citizens from recording unlawful or unethical occurrences without consent from the party at fault.      

With this rule, students have an uphill battle ahead of them if they want to validate their version of events that occur could in classroom. If students cannot legally record their teacher to balance the playing field of teacher vs. student credibility, then there is no way a student can verify any form of teacher misconduct in a classroom.  

    Teachers can send a student to the office with a referral off nothing more than than an accusation from them. Their word is rarely questioned and they do not need to provide concrete evidence to get a student in trouble during class.

    A student’s accusation of a teacher, however, hardly carries the same weight, and time and time again these students’ concerns are brushed aside by those receiving their worries.

    While I understand that an employed adult is a significantly more credible source than a hormonal, emotional, potentially irrational teenager, that does not mean that the adult is always right or that student voices should be ignored.

    The law in place that states that I could not legally record a teacher in the midst of a misdemeanor to prove my validity, leaving me to ask – what are my rights as a student, really? Why is it that a teacher could leave a stain on my permanent record solely off of an assumption or accusation, yet I cannot even legally obtain tangible evidence of a teacher’s misconduct?

    It seems like our school system is an incredibly uneven playing field if students’ complaints are disregarded and who’s evidence can be turned around on me to get me in trouble.

    I recently read an article that argued against the use of camera surveillance in a classroom, calling it too “Orwellian-esque.” However, I feel that the use of cameras in classrooms could help to create a checks and balances system, as cameras could justify both teacher and student accusations.

    Surveillance wouldn’t be used to monitor daily interactions or necessary for constant justification of teachers’ punishments; but would provide needed references for more serious and significant cases which have conflicting testimonies.

    Without cameras implemented to allow legal justification of students’ accusations, our complaints will continue to be ignored and potential injustices will still be tolerated.

    When a family member of mine was in college, she was sexually assaulted by one of her professors while she made up a test in his private office.

    Shaken, she left the office and refused to attend class for the rest of the semester, but she kept quiet about the incident. He even let her enter her own grade for the entire class so long as she did not speak of what he did.

    When I asked her why she did not tell the Dean or any other university staff member, she simply told me, “Nobody would have believed me.”

    That professor continued to teach at the university for years to come. She kept silent after the assault because she believed nobody would take her claim seriously.

    This was decades ago, but the odds are still just as stacked against students attempting to achieve justice over a teacher’s inappropriate actions. Our accusations are brushed aside as an outburst of teenage angst. Our videos and pictures send us to court for an invasion of privacy. We cannot stand up for ourselves under state law.