Friday, September 18, 2020

Parents protecting 4th Amendment rights with letter to schools


Lawyers from the Rutherford Institute have created a sample letter for parents to send to schools when their children participate in online classes.

It protects the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of the family against searches "whether by video or otherwise."

Described as a precautionary "opt out" letter, it's a way for families to assert their privacy rights "and guard against intrusive government surveillance posed by remote learning technologies."

Already there have been several instances this year in which school officials have created havoc for parents by spotting an item in the home during online classes to which they object.

In some cases, education bureaucrats even have dispatched police to visit the homes of students. In one instance, a teacher spotted a toy gun in the home.

"Remote learning should not justify the expansion of draconian zero tolerance policies to encompass so-called 'violations' that take place in students’ homes and home environments. Nor should remote learning be used as a backdoor means of allowing government officials to conduct warrantless surveillance into students’ homes and home environments," said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute.

"While COVID-19 has undoubtedly introduced significant challenges for the schools, the protocols adopted for navigating these circumstances demand a heightened degree of caution lest government officials heedlessly, needlessly and unlawfully violate key constitutional safeguards established to protect the citizenry against invasive and warrantless intrusion into the home."

The lawyers also are warning government officials "against leveraging the current public health situation to further erode the privacy of American citizens."

"At a minimum, schools must not use virtual learning platforms to conduct unwarranted surveillance of students' homes nor use observations made from within the home as a basis for alleging a crime has been or is being committed," they explained.

Rutherford said the letter was created after Isaiah Elliott, a seventh grader at Grand Mountain School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was reported to police by school officials.

He had a toy gun in his room during a virtual class.

"Not only was the 11-year-old suspended for five days for 'bringing' a 'facsimile of a firearm to school,' but he was also traumatized when a police officer showed up at his home to interrogate him," the organization said.

A deputy was given a video of the art class that was recorded without the knowledge or consent of students or their parents and saw the boys playing with the toy gun.

The child was threatened with possible criminal charges in the future.

Rutherford officials have demanded that the student's record be expunged of any offense.

The letter points out the "serious implications" of the online classes and allows the parents to state: "Our child's participation in remote learning pursuant to district policies and practices does not constitute my/our consent to the district or any other government official conducting a search of our property, whether by video surveillance or otherwise."

They also can state: "Our resident does not become school property for purposes of applying district policies or rules by virtue of my/our child's participation in remote learning."

Some teachers have demanded that parents sign an agreement that they will not observe their child's online classes, even if they are playing on a computer in the home.


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