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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
His proposal didn’t get a formal hearing, but an Iowa lawmaker believes he was successful in sparking a conversation about increasing parental awareness of what their children are being taught in the classroom.
A proposal by Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, House File 2217, that called for cameras in classrooms livestreaming K-12 classes to give parents access to watch their children was pulled from the Iowa House calendar Wednesday and appears dead for the rest of the session.
“I’m a little disappointed because I think it’s important that the conversation takes place,” Mommsen said.
“That’s why the process works here,” he said. “You bring your idea and you show its flaws, and we at the end of the day, we end up with a better product. It’s a big meat grinder and who knows what comes out the other end.”
He said he believes parental interest in their children’s education increased when they were engaged in remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.
“That's what I was trying to nurture and continue,” he told reporters. “To take what we learned or what happened and expand upon it. We need parents involved.”
The bill did lead to a discussion by the DeWitt Central school board and implementation of what Mommsen called a “transparency and collaboration program between the school and the parents.”
But his bill touched off a firestorm of criticism.
The Iowa State Education Association, which represents teachers, called it outrageous and dangerous
“The inappropriateness of belief that there should be continual videotaping in a classroom is something that should not even be considered,” said ISEA President Mike Beranek.
Some critics said Mommsen’s bill was part of a GOP effort to impose tighter control on what is taught in Iowa schools and how it is taught. Some people connected it to the “sinister agenda” Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, talked about in the opening days of the session. He has proposed jailing teachers and librarians if they made “inappropriate” books and materials available to students.
Mommsen insisted his intent wasn’t to punish anyone. However, his bill did include penalties if a classroom camera intentionally was turned off or the online feed was disrupted. The first offense would be a written reprimand. Subsequent offenses would increase from a fine equal to 1 percent of the employee’s salary to 5 percent.
Mommsen also dismissed privacy concerns, explaining the cameras would be pointed to the front of classrooms, not at students.
“I would not want anybody's children to be shown on camera,” he said. The livestream would be similar to remote learning that schools conducted in response to the pandemic, which Mommsen said didn’t seem to create privacy issues.
There were eight groups registered to lobby on the bill. Five were opposed. None were in favor.
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