Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
As students have been pushed to online learning by Coronavirus, everything may outwardly seem very safe and innocent to parents, with kids attending distance classes quietly. However, online school creates new opportunities for students to be disciplined by their school, and even suspended or expelled.
Recently, students, in addition to random hackers, have been attending online classes and (intentionally or unintentionally) making rude comments, playing inappropriate music, using fake names that a teacher may say (unaware of the rude context), playing pranks on their classes or instructors and causing other havoc which may not have occurred had they been in a “real” classroom. Students have also appeared scantily clothed or even nude. Some have inappropriate material, purposefully or not so purposefully, in the background of their camera which could get them in trouble, like drug paraphernalia, or inappropriate language. Being online suddenly opens up our homes to the government, in the form of teachers and school officials.
Where before a rude joke was just to a classmate privately, that joke may now be broadcast to the entire class. And students now suddenly have new opportunities to gain online fame for making fools of their teachers or being the most outrageous troublemaker. Maybe before the stay-at-home order, the same student would never have imagined doing these things, but now they may feel more safe or untouchable as heck, they are already at home anyway so what would a suspension matter?
Students forced online who cause havoc will probably receive swifter and more punitive punishments, with no or abbreviated “hearings,” and no ability to properly defend themselves in person, which is a distinct disadvantage.
Additionally, now there may be an undeniable electronic record of their conduct, making it easier for school administrators to punish. Suddenly a student with a perfect record may have a suspension they have to bring up on their college applications, all because they were stupid when they got stuck at home.
All school rules continue to apply online, regardless of where the student is. Parents should discuss with their kids how each school rule applies and work out how NOT to misspeak or break a rule. This may mean students ensure their name is the RIGHT name, not a prank name, before logging on, that students don’t make inappropriate comments during their sessions, that nothing improper appears within view of their camera and that they mute their microphones and turn off the music when attending classes online. Students should wear proper attire, not have drug paraphernalia in their environment, or other evidence that could be misconstrued in some way (e.g. as a threat, weapon, or illegal substance, etc.) and just make sure they look at their surroundings from the view of the camera.
Students and parents should also be mindful that other people and conversations in their home may be seen or heard during class sessions, which is not always a good thing.
Parents should take care of their kids now, as always, yet increase their scrutiny of what their kids are doing in this “new” school environment and beware of the rampant opportunities for students to “misbehave” (in the school’s eyes) in new and novel ways during their enforced home schooling.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
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Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.