She thought she was just standing up for a friend, but what she intended as a good deed ended up getting 11-year-old Brianna Cooper a five-day suspension.
Fed up with her teacher’s bullying of students in the classroom at Samuel Gaines Academy in Fort Pierce, Fla., Cooper decided to do something about it. When her teacher went after one of her fellow students, she took out her phone and started recording the altercation.
Among the verbal abuse Cooper caught on her phone were comments like, “Don’t let size fool you. I will drop you… You Don’t know me, that’s all I’m saying. So, don’t give me no look,” and, “You’re the biggest kid in the 5th grade and you’re acting like the smallest one… I wonder what your mom looks like.”
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However, when Cooper gave the footage to another teacher, the response she received caught her by surprise — she was handed a five-day suspension.
Unbeknownst to the 11-year-old, according to Florida law, it is illegal to make a recording of someone without their consent, unless there is not an expectation of privacy. The school decided that a classroom full of students is a place with an expectation of privacy; however, as PINAC pointed out, a classroom is the last place one should expect privacy:
How much privacy can a public school teacher expect in a large class filled with students, most of them carrying smart phones?
Also, even before the advent of smartphones, students have long tape recorded classroom lectures by simply placing their recorders on their desks, rarely bothering to ask the teacher for permission to record…
Furthermore, if the school was anything like the schools I attended decades ago, there should be an intercom system between the class and the main office, allowing administrators to listen in at any given time, further mooting the expectation of privacy argument.
And finally, in this day and age where most public schools are using surveillance video cameras throughout school property, can one seriously expect to have an expectation of privacy in school anywhere outside a bathroom or locker room?
Cooper’s mother, Cassie Faulkner, disputed the decision and was able to get the suspension lifted; and the teacher has since been fired. The St. Lucie County School District released this statement about the incident:
The staff at Sam Gaines Academy investigated the incident involving unprofessional behavior by the teacher and took swift, appropriate action. The teacher was dismissed and no longer works for the school system.
However, the damage has already been done. “She thought she was doing a good thing. She’s 11-years-old. She doesn’t know the law,” Faulkner said. “It’s pretty much saying to students if you think something is wrong, don’t try and do anything about it,”
Perhaps the most telling comment about the state of the public school system, at least in St. Lucie County, came from Cooper herself: “Do you think that they’d actually believe a student over a teacher?”
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“I thought I did the right thing,” she said, “but I guess I just got suspended.”
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