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Imagine if there were no cameras in the classroom last week when a South Hardin Middle School teacher called Paul Miller allegedly said threatening and derogatory things about supporters of President Donald J. Trump.

School administration would just have a he-said-kids-said situation. And in that case, how could the kids possibly be proven right?

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What “evidence” would there be if middle school students weren’t alert enough to start recording what was happening on their phones?

Remember the outcry from educators when Rep. Norlin Mommsen introduced a bill requiring cameras in classrooms?

Well, without a camera — or two — being in the sixth-grade classroom at South Hardin Middle School, nobody would have ever heard this:

Or this:

And that would likely continue. I will not get into the stories being circulated now on social media from former students coming forward with stories about the teacher. They may be true. They may not be true.

Doesn’t matter.

Because what we know to be true is what we can hear in the audio above, which was taken from videos obtained by kids in the classroom. A place that should be safe, but instead turned into a hostile political diatribe by a shouting teacher who said supporters of President Trump are not in their right mind to kids.

In many Iowa schools and classrooms, students are not even allowed to have their cell phones in the classroom.

The district said a staff member has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. It did not name Miller as the teacher, but a number of sources close to the situation have told The Iowa Standard that is who the teacher is.

The Iowa Standard reached out to Miller via email, but he has not responded.

So, the obvious question is, if cameras in the classroom are not something the legislature will consider, what is the answer to this ever-growing problem of political proselytizing in Iowa’s schools?

Last week we saw the video of how serious educators are taking — or not taking — House File 802, a bill that passed in 2021 to address teaching divisive concepts as fact in Iowa schools.

Now we hear — some of us have seen — what this teacher said to his students in the taxpayer-funded classroom. Mind you, plenty of Trump-supporting taxpayers funded the classroom such comments were made.

And without the recordings, none of us would know otherwise.

If Republican legislators aren’t willing to protect kids against this sort of behavior by putting cameras or recording devices in Iowa classrooms, hopefully they have some other idea on how to curb this problem.

Perhaps schools and/or teachers shouldn’t be allowed to ban cell phones or recording devices from classrooms.

Make no mistake, I understand why cell phones are banned from classrooms. They’re full of distractions. But they’re also the best tool kids have to defend themselves in situations like this.

Education Savings Accounts will keep the Iowa House plenty busy here in the closing days, weeks or months of the legislative session. But I look forward to seeing what solutions House Republicans propose next year to address situations like this one if they’re not willing to put cameras or other recording devices in Iowa classrooms.

Middle school kids should not be the ones having to protect themselves against such behavior. It is incumbent upon the legislature to act.

Author: Jacob Hall

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