One of the most talked about bills in this session of the Iowa Legislature is HF2177. Introduced by State Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, the bill calls for video cameras and live streaming of Iowa classrooms. Video streams would be available on demand but only to parents or guardians. Mommson’s bill also calls for penalties if cameras are disabled or obstructed. Of course this goes back to the frustration some parents are feeling about what is being taught in classrooms and more recently what books are available in school libraries. This activist parent movement in education has been on the rise in recent months and really took off after (former) Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe famously said in a debate (with then candidate and now Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin):
I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.
In Virginia, a state Biden took by 10% in 2020, this was enough to cost Democrats the governorship. Closer to home, in the Des Moines suburbs, activists won seats on the Ankeny and Johnston School Boards and failed to make inroads in Waukee.
It should be no surprise that Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek said the idea was:
completely outrageous and dangerous.
I have to admit that my initial thought was to agree with Beranek. I still have some questions about how this bill would work but my opinion is a bit nuanced. The reason is that I brought this issue up with a teachers that I know. I understand that this was a representative sample but he said that talking with his colleagues many of them favor the idea though not necessarily in its present form.
This teacher’s position is atypical. He is a middle school teacher in a building and district with a very high transient population. Most students come from families in severe poverty, violence is common in the neighborhood and in school. In this very difficult environment, this teacher told me that he would be in favor of having video to protect him when incidents occur in the classroom. He also said it would be helpful in dealing with parents who do not believe it when told that their little angels are not really angels in the classroom.
On the other hand, he expressed concerns about making the livestream available to parents on demand. In his school environment there are a lot of issues resulting from broken families that might cause privacy and security concerns with a livestream.
One of my first thoughts was that this would cause even more teachers to leave the profession — and it might! But, for some like this teacher it might help him to stay!
I absolutely believe that parents should be involved in their children’s schools! I think that there could be a place for video in the classroom. But as it stands, I don’t think this bill is it.
PS in a future non-political post I will share some ideas, as a 20 year Jefferson High School parent, about how parents can be involved in schools.