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A Tennessee school district tried to ban parents from observing their kids' virtual classes

Violators can be removed from the class

Seven-year-old Hamza Haqqani, a 2nd grade student at Al-Huda Academy, uses a computer to participate in an E-learning class with his teacher and classmates while at his home on May 1 in Bartlett, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A school district in Tennessee told parents they should not attempt to observe their children's online classes and threatened that children of parents who violate that policy could be removed from class, according to the Tennessee Star.

Appealing to academic privacy concerns for students, Rutherford County Schools sent a form to parents for them to sign and agree not to listen in on what their kids are learning. The Star obtained a copy of the form.

"RCS strives to present these opportunities in a secure format that protects student privacy to the greatest extent possible, however because these meetings will occur virtually RCS is limited in its ability to fully control certain factors such as non-student observers that may be present in the home of a student participating in the virtual meeting," the form reads. "RCS strongly discourages non student observation of online meetings due to the potential of confidential information about a student being revealed."

The agreement includes a clause allowing for students to be removed from virtual class sessions if the agreement is not adhered to.

The letter apparently caused some alarm in the district, enough that a spokesman for Rutherford County Schools had to respond and modify the guidance about class observation.

"We are aware of the concern that has been raised about this distance-learning letter that was sent to parents," spokesman James Evans told the Star via email. "The intent was not to prevent parents from being involved with their children during distance learning, but it was intended to protect the academic privacy of other students in the classroom who are visible during certain virtual class sessions."

"We have issued new guidance to principals that parents can assist their children during virtual group lessons with the permission of the instructor but should refrain from sharing or recording any information about other students in the classroom," Evans continued.

While that new guidance allows some wiggle room, it indicates that parents could still be blocked from observing if teachers choose not to allow it.

Some Tennessee schools have resumed in-person classes. The governor has allowed districts to make the decision whether to conduct in-person classes or stay virtual.

Rutherford County Schools opened for in-person classes, but two schools have already closed because of the number of students who have been forced to quarantine due to symptoms or exposure to someone who possibly had COVID-19. According to WZTV, roughly 20,000 out of the district's 48,000 students are taking classes online.

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