With the ongoing pandemic continuing to pose a threat, millions of elementary, high school, and college students have turned to virtual learning environments as a way to continue their education. Unfortunately, the same advances in technology that have enabled remote learning have also created new opportunities for student-to-student misconduct, and even for teacher-to-student misconduct online.
As CBS Sacramento reports, a recent report from L1ght, a company dedicated to protecting students using AI technology, reveals a 70 percent increase in online hate speech incidents among teenagers between March and September 2020. Other watchdog agencies and organizations across the country have likewise reported increased abuses of online learning platforms since the pandemic started. Where most might assume the lack of in-person learning would result in fewer acts of misconduct, these reports have led to increased concerns that misconduct is simply shifting to online environments—an area that is still fairly difficult to police.
Opportunities for Misconduct in the Online Space
As numerous reports indicate, students and teachers alike are discovering new and different ways to violate school policies online—and even the law. Some of the most common issues reported recently include the following:
Cyberbullying and Hate Speech
When VeryWell dug deeper into the recent report from L1ght, they revealed that in addition to the 70 percent increase in cyberbullying in general, there has been an increase of toxic online speech of 40 percent on gaming platforms, along with a 200 percent increase in traffic to hate sites among young people. Cyberbullying has been an issue for some time in schools, but distance learning has made it the primary outlet for bullying. Even video chat platforms like Zoom have seen increased abuse—to the point that NYC Schools no longer permit it to be used in virtual school settings.
Officials have also observed an increase in the use of virtual learning platforms for incidents of sexual misconduct. The Chicago Tribune reports that while Chicago Public Schools has seen a predictably lower rate of sexual misconduct cases on campus since the pandemic began, they have also received an increase in the number of reports of online sexual misconduct—not just student-to-student, but also some teacher-to-student allegations.
Students have been using online resources to cheat or plagiarize for years, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, incidents of online cheating have spiked considerably since the pandemic started—a disturbing development since schools have a more difficult time policing students in their home environments.
Improved Policing on the Horizon?
Even as the nation gradually returns to in-person learning with the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine, distance learning is likely to continue to play a predominant role in education for the foreseeable future. Since necessity is the mother of invention, we can expect schools and educational companies to become better at detecting—and penalizing—incidents of student and teacher misconduct online. Those solutions can't be far away, considering that no online activity is truly anonymous. The digital records of misconduct should be fairly easy to trace once the mechanisms are in place.
If you are a student wrongly accused of some form of online misconduct, it may be difficult for the school to provide proof—but your academic future may still be at risk because schools can still find you at fault due to “preponderance of the evidence.” A skilled attorney-advisor can help you develop a sound defense and possibly save your career prospects.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have helped countless students defend against false allegations, mitigate outcomes when allegations are true, and resolve other school-related issues and concerns. To learn more, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.