HB 1196 Seeks Ban on Unauthorized Recording in Classrooms

House Bill 1196 originally sought to drop our mandatory school attendance age back to 16. House Education hoghoused HB 1196 last Wednesday to clamp down on recording devices in K-12 classrooms:

No person, including a student, may use any electronic listening or recording device in any classroom of a school district without the prior consent of the teacher in the classroom and the principal of the school.

Any person, other than a student, who violates this section is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Any student who violates this section is subject to appropriate disciplinary action as provided in school district policy [2017 HB 1196, as amended in House Education, 2017.02.15].

The School Administrators of South Dakota brought this hoghouse to protect teachers and students from unauthorized recordings in the classroom. Speaking for the administrators, Rob Monson said HB 1196 is not intended to stop folks from taking photos and videos at public events like basketball games and school plays (although you’d better check with the director and the playwright before recording any part of the school play). It’s meant to keep kids from catching teachers at awkward moments and manipulating images to embarrass teachers via social media.

Now teachers and administrators can already prohibit kids from using phones and other gadgets in the classroom, under school policy. The proponents contended that school policy can’t restrict adults from making such recordings and that state law is required to provide full protection from unauthorized recording.

Rep. Burt Tulson asked if hearing aids could fall under the text. Obviously that’s not the intent of the bill, but that’s not made clear in the text of the bill. Nor, as Rep. Bob Glanzer noted, does the bill make clear that it doesn’t extend to the use of iPads, laptop computers, or other computing devices that students and teachers regularly use in the classroom.

Last weekend, I judged speech and debate rounds in ten different classrooms in Watertown High School. School was out, the classroom teachers were elsewhere, but I was in public school district classrooms. In those rounds, I used my tablet and laptop to take notes on student presentations. I didn’t record audio or video, but I did record the proceedings in electronic handwriting and typewriting. Many of my fellow judges use their phones to keep time in debate rounds. Strictly read, HB 1196 would have required each of us judges to get permission from every Watertown High School teacher and the principal to carry on our normal debate-judging activities in their classrooms.

House Education passed HB 1196 on an 8–6 vote, with the nays appearing more concerned that the Class 2 misdemeanor penalty was too harsh. HB 1196 is on Tuesday’s House calendar, along with 45 other bills. If this bill is necessary, I suggest a quick amendment—strike “may use any electronic listening or recording device” and replace with “may take photos or make audio or video recordings while class is in session.”

28 Responses to HB 1196 Seeks Ban on Unauthorized Recording in Classrooms

  1. I sincerely hope this bill gets serious attention and includes serious consequences. Too many teachers are subtly and not so subtly subjected to harassment and embarrassment via numerous social media tools. Too often this behavior is defended and cheered by parents whose sense of common decency stalled out in junior high.

  2. Porter Lansing

    Even Pat Powers is against this anti-embarrassment, basement room hiding attempt at Germanic dominance of thought and expression. See folks. Even a crusty conservative like Paddy can become quickly liberalized with just a short trip to California. And, he went to San Diego, which along with Orange County (Anacrime and DisneyPlace) are highly conservative areas of the leading progressive state in USA.

  3. Liberty Dick

    Hmmm so police officers and first responders with body cameras will be in violation of the law for simply responding to a school… Smooth move…

  4. Caroline, I agree we need good policies to protect everyone, teachers and students, from online harassment. As you note, part of the problem is bad attitudes… and laws alone won’t fix attitudes.

    Pat’s too busy watching whales to understand the actual substance of the law, Porter.

    LibD, good example! There is a good policy hiding in here somewhere, but it’s currently trapped under really sloppy wording.

  5. Liberty Dick: “Hmmm so police officers and first responders with body cameras will be in violation of the law for simply responding to a school”
    CH: “LibD, good example!”

    While I’m have no view either side (haven’t thought about it), not sure it is a good example. Somewhere there is wording which exempts law enforcement et. al. from most prosecution of laws in reasonable performance of the duties otherwise just about every law would have a section which says except for law enforcement.

    For example, trespassing laws don’t say “except for first responders responding”. Firefighters aren’t prosecuted for the intentional destruction of private property despite that being against the law. Cops aren’t prosecuted for going over the speed limit in pursuit.

  6. This should be left for the local schools to decide. Again, the SD GOP majority wants to control, control, control.

  7. Liberty Dick

    Just a thought Troy. But it does seem possible under this law. I’d have to look at the first responder exemptions to know for sure. But just throwing it out there as something to be aware of in this case. On that same note, what if one were to attend a school function in uniform with the body camera on? Even weirder thought since Google records you randomly to target ads would Google be in violation of this law? The phone owner even though they don’t control when the device listens?

  8. Bob Newland

    Liberty Dick: Try using a verb from time to time to give motion to your thoughts.

  9. Liberty Dick,

    I think that if we always go down the remote possible “what ifs” we get distracted from the question.

    First, do teachers have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the classroom? Probably not.
    Second, do teachers have a reasonable expectation to be able to be stimulate all sides of discussion in the classroom without fear of being taken out of context? Probably.
    Third, should teachers be able to say/instigate illegal actions or contrary to certain decorum standards in class without fear of it being used against them because it was in the classroom? Obviously not.

    Thus, the questions are:

    1) Is the preponderance of public interest in preventing or allowing recording?

    2) Should the decision be local, state or federal?

    3) Should the punishment be severe or light? (Light allows for civil disobedience to be not excessively punished)

    So, the question comes in

  10. Is this really a thing? Do we really have problems with unauthorized adults in classrooms recording videostudio? Do these schools not have locks? WTF??

  11. A class 2 misdemeanor for recording public speech? What reasonable expectation of privacy occurs for a teacher speaking in accordance with their duties? If the school has a policy against this, let them enforce it with detention, suspension, etc. Making a criminal law about it is asinine.

  12. Is this really a thing? Do we really have problems with unauthorized adults in classrooms recording videos? Do these schools not have locks? WTF??

  13. Cory- “laws alone won’t fix bad attitudes “????!!!! I believe we have a great many laws against sexual harassment, hate crimes, profiling, discrimination based on gender, race, religion etc etc. Why do so few people care about teacher harassment. It is still open season on them. If you think leaving this to school policy developed by school board members who, in most cases, are parents of innocent children who can snap chat faster than you can say it, you have no idea what life is like for teachers or the climate of many school districts.

  14. bearcreekbat

    I’m with Chip on this one. Another brilliant solution in search of a problem.

  15. Troy, LibD’s question remains valid. If he were a legislator in committee and posed that question to a proponent said, “Well, there’s probably some other statute that exempts law enforcement,” he’d be perfectly entitled to respond, “Well, until someone can show me that statute in black and white, I’m not voting for this bill, because the text before us creates unwanted consequences.” That’s a healthy conservative approach to lawmaking.

  16. Oh, Caroline, I’m in classrooms on a regular basis. I’ve had my own hearing where students brought forward a whole laundry basket of in-class comments taken out of context to make me look bad. I know keenly how vulnerable teachers are to harassment.

    My comment is not meant to say HB 1196 is a bad idea; my comment is meant to acknowledge that there has been a bad cultural shift of parents not disciplining their children enough and failing to act as partners with teachers in disciplining their children. It’s a darn shame that we have to resort to laws to give teachers protection that ought to require nothing more than a teacher saying, “Shut off your phones.” And if adults think they need to come to my classroom to record what I’m doing to see if they can catch me saying one thing wrong, then we’ve really reached a point of lack of respect for the profession.

  17. To Troy’s question about law enforcement immunity, we do have SDCL 23-3-70 granting cops immunity from civil liability for good faith conduct, but that doesn’t affect this criminal statute. Likewise SDCL 20-9-4.1 for first responders.

  18. I will note that our bunker mentality means no adult is going to get in the door of the school without checking in with the office first. An unexpected adult walking into my classroom might prompt a lockdown. An unexpected adult reaching into a pocket could prompt deadly fire from a school sentinel.

  19. Local control? I thought schools could pass policies that apply to students and adults alike, to anybody who sets foot on school grounds. Parents sure can’t come in to watch the standardized tests, make copies of the test booklets, or engage in behavior that distracts the students.

  20. On Troy’s privacy question: Do teachers have an expectation of privacy in the classroom? Not in any absolute sense. With 15–30 kids in the room, I assume everything I say will get back to parents. 9I actually hope all the kids do go home and tell their parents everything I said and did, so everyone can hear what an awesome teacher I am. ;-) )

    However, there is not an absolute absence of privacy. I can have private conversations with students about their grades, their behavior, and other education-related issues, and I can provide the student with some assurance that those conversations are not anyone else’s business beyond any proper authorities (principal, school board, parents) to whom I must report. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act designates all sorts of records that I can and must protect from visitors’ prying eyes.

    Sure, what I do in my classroom is mostly a matter of public record, but teachers deserve some control over who does what in the classroom.

  21. Mr. H, since you and young Mr. Greenfield seem to share common professions as substitute teacher and coach you fellows could really team up on this one. Please blog a picture of you and Mr. Greenfield as you both testify.

  22. Seriously tho, if kids are already not allowed to have electronic devices in class, who is this geared toward? Or are they just looking for more teeth in with students? I’m all for protecting teachers, but I’m not sure what this does.

  23. It is about students who might videotape a teacher getting into a row with a student, or a teacher going off on a rant and demeaning a student. These kind of things have happened and this probably seeks to address them.

  24. On Troy’s other questions:

    Do teachers have a reasonable expectation to be able to be stimulate all sides of discussion in the classroom without fear of being taken out of context? I’m with Troy there. We have a right to have our teaching viewed in full context. How about a little good-faith immunity?

    Should teachers be able to say/instigate illegal actions or contrary to certain decorum standards in class without fear of it being used against them because it was in the classroom? Again, Troy is right. (I said good faith immunity. But that still doesn’t mean that every Tom, Dick, and Mary can come park in the back of my classroom to play Gotcha Video every day waiting for some prosecutable morsel.

    Is the preponderance of public interest in preventing or allowing recording? Preventing. The public interest is already served by administrators who are able to observe our classroom activities any time, not to mention the numerous sets of young eyes on us at every moment of our professional activities. Teachers already work under far more public scrutiny than many other professions.

    Should the decision be local, state or federal? Let’s be conservatives: Definitely not federal, probably not state. I would contend local districts already have the authority to keep cameras out of the classroom.

    Should the punishment be severe or light? (Light allows for civil disobedience to be not excessively punished) The punishment for taking naughty pix/vids without permission )(SDCL 22-21-4) is a Class 1 misdemeanor if you are 21 or older and do it to someone 17 or younger. The recordings we’re talking about outlawing under HB 1196 are not as bad as illicit locker room pix or revenge porn… are they? If the comparison holds, Class 2 misdemeanor would be an acceptable upper-bound punishment.

  25. Why are kids being allowed to have these devices in class? Can cameras be turned off on tablets that are issued by the school?

  26. Sure, Chip. The tech desk can disable all sorts of features.

    But then we get into the tricky question: why have the tech in the classroom if we’re going to deny ourselves all the tools they offer to advance learning?

    Consider that tablet camera. Maybe three kids are out with the flu. I might want my students to record the lecture so they can share it with their sick friends. Maybe I’ve got students can study better by listening to a recording of the lecture instead of taking written notes. (Don’t get me wrong: I think note-taking is a valuable learning skill, far superior to listening to any recording over and over, but I’ll entertain alternative learning styles.) Maybe I put a map or a diagram on the board that students want to photograph and add to their notes.

    Such activities are still possible under HB 1196: the teacher gives permission, the administration gives permission—boom! we’re in business. When we disable the technology, we lose the chance to lose it. So if you give me a choice, I take the policy option of HB 1196 over the total tech restriction.

    Part of education is learning to use technology appropriately. I’d like to believe that if we let kids use phones, tablets, laptops, and the Internet in class, we can do a lot of good education. But I also recognize that an open technology policy in the classroom requires constant vigilance and enforcement.

  27. I thought the problem was these nuisance kids videotaping or recording teachers in the room with their own recorders. Like the way some phones might do. A teacher slam’s one kid and his buddy records it all out of context, or one mean girl takes a picture of the teacher with her mouth all agape and a buttock hanging just wrong or picking up an eraser or something and puts it on the face books and you’ve got an entire mockery going on. We can’t have that, it’s even more important than paying our best teachers more that we treat them with respect.

  28. I agree Cory, and anything we can do to help protect teachers is great with me. A couple other thoughts tho… First off, if we extend this courtesy to our teachers will law enforcement be expecting the same? How about legislators? The ‘crickets’ video may become grounds for being charged at some point in time if we take this path. Also on the learning process, something needs to be said for teaching retention. How many phone #’s do you remember anymore? If you’re like me, none.

    On the other hand, another option would be setting up a permanent camera in classrooms where lectures are recorded and accessed through a school website for a period of time. This would work well for students who are sick or possibly leave an option for schools to not run busses and still hold classes when weather does not cooperate.