Tenn. school district clarifies policy telling parents not to monitor online classes

Unsplash/Brooke Cagle
Unsplash/Brooke Cagle

A school district in Tennessee has issued a clarification after it faced criticism for asking parents to sign a waiver promising not to listen to or monitor their children’s virtual learning sessions taking place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, concern grew among parents after Rutherford County Schools in central Tennessee asked them to sign a waiver that “strongly discourages non student observations of online meetings due to the potential of confidential information about a student being revealed.”

Violation of the waiver agreement could result in a child being removed from the virtual meeting. 

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The waiver, which was “intended to protect the academic privacy" of students, comes as many students nationwide are receiving remote instruction during the pandemic and have connected with their teachers through virtual platforms like Zoom. 

Critics, including Pastor Dale Walker of the Tennessee Pastors Network, fear that that waiver is indicative of a desire to prevent parents from discovering the liberal “indoctrination” taking place in the classrooms.

Rutherford County Schools Communications Director James Evans clarified in a statement to News 4 last week that the district issued new guidance to principals telling them that “parents can assist their children during virtual group lessons with permission of the instructor."

The guidance stipulated that parents should "refrain from sharing or recording any information about other students in the classroom.”

Rutherford County Schools also denied having an ulterior motive for the waiver. In a statement given to media outlets, the school district proclaimed that “parent involvement is key to successful schools and students.”

“The intent was never to prevent parents from being involved with their children during distance learning, but it was intended to protect the academic privacy of other students in the classroom who are visible during certain virtual class sessions,” the school district's statement explains.

“We are also not attempting to hide what is being taught in the classroom. Our schools use the academic standards adopted by the Tennessee Department of Education, and the curriculum materials our teachers use are readily available and shared with parents.”

Walker elaborated on his concerns about the waiver in an interview with The Christian Post. 

“In Tennessee, the curriculum has long been an issue,” he explained. 

Walker contended that he has been told of schools teaching students “Marxism” and “socialism.”

“We’re told in Tennessee that there’s no more Common Core,” Walker maintained. “It’s just been rebranded.”

Walker claims that the entire “American education system needs to be totally revamped.”

“This is going to take a complete overhaul. Put the power back in the hands of the local people,” he said. “The taxpayers, unfortunately, don’t have the control in the school systems that we think we do.”

The pastor called on the state to give Tennesseans the ability to elect their school superintendents and state director of education. Currently, the director of education is appointed by the governor.

“We need a conservative director of education in our state,” he asserted. “I don’t think we have a conservative director of education … For Heaven’s sake, she’s not even from Tennessee.”

Throughout the interview, Walker reiterated the importance of local control of education. 

“Schools are the biggest line-item in most counties,” Walker added. “The taxpayers don’t have a say of who is going to run that ship.”

“We don’t want Marxism. We don’t want socialism,” he continued. “We should be able to choose a curriculum in America.”

Walker called on concerned parents to get involved in their children’s education and demand their elected officials take action immediately. 

“The more we allow this to go on, the more this type of activity is going to be the norm,” Walker stressed. 

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