An 11-year-old Florida girl was suspended from school after she recorded her fifth-grade teacher threatening and bullying other students.
The evidence Brianna Cooper recorded was enough to get the teacher fired from Samuel Gaines Academy in Fort Pierce, about two hours north of Miami.
But administrators say it was also enough to earn the student a five-day suspension.
After all, they claim, the teacher, had an expectation of privacy in the classroom.
But how much privacy can a public school teacher expect in a large class filled with students, most of them carrying smart phones?
Also, even before the advent of smartphones, students have long tape recorded classroom lectures by simply placing their recorders on their desks, rarely bothering to ask the teacher for permission to record.
In fact, most teachers should be pleased that students are using recorders in order to retain as much information as possible.
Furthermore, if the school was anything like the schools I attended decades ago, there should be an intercom system between the class and the main office, allowing administrators to listen in at any given time, further mooting the expectation of privacy argument.
And finally, in this day and age where most public schools are using surveillance video cameras throughout school property, can one seriously expect to have an expectation of privacy in school anywhere outside a bathroom or locker room?
In this case, the teacher, whose name has not been released, threatened a student by saying, “I will drop you,” in front of several other students, so their argument that this was a private conversation is laughable.
Samuel Gaines Academy is part of the St. Lucie Public School District where officials refused to comment to the media because it is “an ongoing investigation.”
But considering they already fired the teacher and suspended the student, their ongoing investigation is nothing more than an excuse to shun the media in the hopes it goes away because we can bet they’re not investigating the principal for abusing her authority.
However, Cooper’s family has already retained an attorney, according to WSVN, so it is likely a lawsuit will be filed to settle the case in court.
And that’s a good thing considering the Florida wiretapping law is outdated, written decades before the introduction of smartphones.
Meanwhile, the teacher will likely be hired at another school where she will likely continue her bullying ways.
According to WPTV:
In the recording, Cooper says you hear the teacher say, “Don’t let size fool you. I will drop you….You don’t know me, that’s all I’m saying. So, don’t give me no look.”
Cooper said the teacher had been mean to students before. She says she took the video to prove it.
“Do you think that they would actually believe a student over a teacher?” Cooper asked.
Cooper played more of the recording, where she says the teacher also said, “You’re the biggest kid in 5th grade and you’re acting like the smallest one…. I wonder what your mom looks like.”
“You don’t speak to children, let alone students like that,” said Cooper’s mother, Cassie Faulkner.
Cooper says she gave the recording to a teacher. Then, she says she was called to the principal’s office and suspended.
Faulkner says the school told her recording the audio without the teacher knowing is against the law.
“I’ve never had anybody tell me you cannot record,” said Cooper
“She thought she was doing a good thing. She’s 11-years-old. She doesn’t know the law,” Faulkner said.
She worries her daughter’s suspension sends the wrong message to other students.
“It’s pretty much saying to students if you think something is wrong, don’t try and do anything about it,” Faulkner said.
Faulkner says she is also worried because Cooper is suspended during days students are prepping for the Florida Standards Assessment.
It is obvious school administrators are trying to send a message to students that they better not dare record the bullying tactics of teachers, which is why it’s important for Cooper’s lawyer to send a message back to the school that there is no expectation of privacy in a public school classroom.
Unless, of course, a teacher takes a student to a corner of a classroom for a one-on-one conversation in a hushed tone, making an obvious effort to keep that conversation between themselves, rather than yelling threats to a student in front of the entire class while using the grammatically incorrect double negative “don’t give me no look.”
Not only did the teacher deserve to be fired, but the school’s principal, Traci Wilke, who regularly post photos from inside the classrooms toTwitter, further destroying her expectation of privacy argument, should be fired as well for suspending the student in what is an obvious attempt at intimidation.
Call the school at (772) 462-8888 and the school district at (772) 429-3600. Or you can contact the district through a contact form on its website.
The school district’s Facebook page is also filled with photos of students from inside classrooms making one wonder if they obtained permission from parents to post these photos considering they have such an expectation of privacy while in school.
UPDATE: The student’s suspension was lifted today, according to WPTV,which spoke to the girl’s mother.
It’s me again! As a teacher myself, I will be the first to say that the teacher’s actions were totally unprofessional and the school acted rightly in firing that teacher. Even if the bullied pupil was being disrespectful to the teacher, threatening to “drop” the pupil wasn’t the right way to go about it. However, the fact that the teacher was fired doesn’t justify the suspension of the girl who filmed the bullying. She was doing what she thought was the right thing and the privacy of the teacher claim was a load of horse manure.
Schools are not closed door institutions. What goes on inside them is not a matter of secrecy but in the public interest. Any bullying that goes on in a school should be brought to light and dealt with and if the incident leaves egg on the face of the school so be it. Hopefully, that will encourage the school to act more forcefully in the future. If I had those things in place at the time, my junior high school days would have been a little more bearable.
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