(The Center Square) – An Iowa representative introduced Tuesday a bill that would allow parents to watch live footage of their children in public school classrooms.
“I think we need to showcase the great work our teachers do,” Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, a farmer, told The Center Square in a phone interview Tuesday.
He said that through the COVID-19 pandemic, parents learned they wanted to be more involved, and this is a mechanism of facilitating parental involvement.
“Similar to a body camera on a policeman, a camera takes away the ‘he said, she said’ or ‘he said, he said,’ type argument and lets them know ‘hey, we are doing a good job.’ It takes that argument away,” Mommsen said.
He said he believes the video surveillance would shut down the “sinister agenda” remark Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, made. The comment has been widely circulated in social media and news stories.
Chapman had advocated for the removal of certain books from Iowa school district libraries.
“One doesn't have to look far to see the sinister agenda occurring right before our eyes. The attack on our children is no longer hidden,” Chapman said during opening session. “Those who wish to normalize sexually deviant behavior against our children, including pedophilia and incest, are pushing this movement more than ever before. Our children should be safe and free from this atrocious assault."
KCCI reported that Chapman said he was talking about some, not all teachers.
“We've seen it that they have actually come before school boards and advocated for keeping this type of literature in the classroom,” he said. “And I don't think that's OK.”
Many have said the comment is an attack on teachers overall. Mommsen said his bill is meant to support teachers throughout Iowa.
“This would eliminate this ‘sinister plot’ chatter because the video shows there’s not a sinister plot,” he said.
He said one of his English teachers when he attended Miles Community High School changed his life. Miles Community High School has since merged with another school.
“I just think it would be great to let our teachers get back to teaching and not have to worry about that. … If I was [a police officer], I would have put one on, just for my own self-protection.”
Under the bill, school districts would install cameras in each classroom not designated for special education or physical education.
Funding for the cameras would be paid by school foundation aid. School districts would solely allow parents of children in the classroom to view live footage during school day hours. Employees who intentionally cause cameras not to function would receive a written reprimand. A second offense would involve a fine of 1% of the employee’s weekly salary. Subsequent offenses would be fines of 5% of the employee’s weekly salary. Superintendents who fail to enforce compliance would be subject to a fine of 5% of their weekly salary each time an employee of their district is fined for a third or more occurrence.
Mommsen said he included those measures because of his conviction.
“I could see people blowing it off, saying ‘Not in my classroom.’ I just feel so strongly that it would be beneficial to … the teachers, the parents, education as a whole that I needed some type of penalty mechanism,” he said.
Mommsen said people should be openminded as they examine the bill.
“I look at it as a very positive thing,” he said.