During a traditional in-person class, most teachers know how to keep their students quiet and focused – but as with most aspects of our lives, the coronavirus pandemic has completely changed how educators must approach student discipline. With the rise of online learning, many teachers simply press the mute button if students are getting too talkative or rowdy in the virtual classroom. It seems like a simple solution, but online discipline only gets more complicated from there.
In addition to keeping the virtual learning environment quiet, teachers need to pay attention to issues like attendance, student engagement, eating or drinking during class, and mitigating other distractions, such as pets and noisy siblings – all of which can be much more difficult to manage online. Unsurprisingly, this has created myriad challenges for teachers, as well as students who may not understand or be unfairly targeted by new disciplinary practices.
How Schools Are Approaching Online Discipline
Many schools in major cities such as Washington, D.C., have applied their in-person rules to the virtual classroom, such as not talking during lessons, wearing appropriate attire (no underwear or pajamas), and treating teachers and other classmates with respect. Meanwhile, other schools have created new regulations specifically for the online classroom.
In Shelby County School District in Tennessee, a virtual document outlines the policy for discipline and punishments, including cyberbullying, wearing revealing clothing, showing up late to class, using cell phones during class, and disturbing the online environment. Students are also expected to have a “classroom” set up at home that is free of distractions and has everything they need to facilitate learning.
The transition to online learning has impacted how students are punished as well. In the Clayton County Public School District in Georgia, for example, students may receive different types of suspensions that require working in isolated virtual “classrooms” either alone or with other students who have broken the rules.
As in a traditional classroom, some stakeholders are concerned that certain students may be targeted unfairly for discipline, particularly students of color. Last month, a Colorado Springs middle school called the police when a Black student showed a toy gun on screen, and the student was given a five-day suspension. As a result, the student now has a record with the sheriff's office and a negative notation in his school record that will follow him for years.
Unfairly Disciplined in the Virtual Classroom? An Attorney Can Help
If you have been unfairly targeted by new disciplinary practices in your online classroom, you have the right to defend yourself and protect your academic record and your integrity. It is important to know your school's policy and your rights if you are accused. An experienced education lawyer can help you understand your case and craft a defense that is more likely to succeed.
The Lento Law Firm is here to help. Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience in fighting for the rights of falsely accused students across the country. Our law firm has already adapted to the virtual realities of a post-COVID world. We can help guide you to the most beneficial outcome for your case. Call (888) 535-3686 to speak directly with experienced education lawyer Joseph D. Lento about your case.