Public school teachers in Massachusetts are reportedly calling the police as well as the state’s Department of Children and Families on parents whose children miss so-called “Zoom school,” classes held via livestream in lieu of in-person education to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts officials have reported dozens of families to state social workers, alleging possible neglect charges due to issues regarding their children’s participation in virtual learning.
Most of the referrals were made based solely on the fact that students failed to log into class a handful of times, the newspaper reported. Most of the parents reported were mothers and had no previous involvement with social services.
One New York public defender described the situation in Massachusetts as “despicable.”
So far, the program has disproportionately impacted minority households, siccing police officers and social workers on families in which either both parents work or the kids are being raised by a single parent who is working, leaving children to attend virtual classes on their own.
This policy could easily become dangerous and overly intrusive, according to Reason magazine writer Robby Soave:
The Globe spoke with several parents who have received calls and visits from the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). The department has the power to remove children from their homes and place them in foster care if agents suspect that kids are being mistreated, abused, or neglected — and DCF considers distance-learning no-shows to be possible abuse cases. DCF lists numerous circumstances in which teachers should feel obliged to call the cops, among them kids appearing tired or hungry during Zoom sessions.
Several parents relayed their experiences to the newspaper.
Em Quiles said she was struggling to balance her full-time job while overseeing her 7-year-old son’s schooling, which was largely supervised by his teenage brother. She volunteered to the school she was having trouble keeping up with her work schedule and trying to navigate online learning platforms for her child. But rather than offering any help, in June, Quiles received a call from a DCF agent because school officials had accused her of neglect after her young son missed class and homework assignments.
Another parent, Christi Brouder, a single mother of four kids, said teachers threatened her with DCF interference. At one point, when her 10-year-old daughter was logged on to a Zoom class, Brouder’s 6-year-old son, who has autism, leapt in front of the computer screen, and he was naked. The school called the police and Brouder was soon contacted a by DCF agent, who told Brouder a school staff member reported a naked adult man exposing himself to children via Zoom. Then a police officer showed up “due to the severity of the allegations.”
Thankfully, Brouder was able to clear things up and both cases were dropped.