NEWS — December 8, 2020 at 6:47 am

Broward County Public Schools implements a mandatory cameras-on rule for virtual learning

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Students in a class with their cameras on using the platform Teams. Photo by Dana Masri

As of Wednesday, Dec. 2, the School Board of Broward County updated attendance policy 5.5 that now requires that students have their cameras on for attendance and instruction. Prior to this addition, teachers had to adjust to teaching without being able to see the facial responses of their students and making sure they are engaged. 

A survey was conducted via Clever asking Broward County teachers if they wanted their students to have their cameras on with 69% of them reacting positively in support of the new policy. Teachers are now able to mark a student absent if he/she does not have their camera on or respond to the teacher when called on.

Although many administrations have pushed for students to have their cameras on, many students do not agree with this new requirement. Over 8,000 students signed a petition through Change.org called “Cameras Should Not Be Required In Broward County Schools.” 

The reason being that various students do not feel comfortable showing their household environment or certain circumstances through their cameras. 

“Although I feel bad for teachers because many students don’t turn their cameras on, it is an invasion of privacy when kids are forced to turn their cameras on,” junior Yali Har-Nov said. “Kids can have shared rooms, and many other things going on at home that could make them uncomfortable when turning on their cameras.”

However, for other students, turning on their camera does not bother them. Some students empathize with their teachers as the days can feel lonely without seeing student faces.

“I think cameras being mandatory is okay. I can understand why teachers would like our cameras on, and I feel bad that they have to look at a screen with a bunch of bubbles on it while they are teaching,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Kielyn McCright said. “It doesn’t really bother me too much to keep [my camera] on. I also think it depends on the person’s home situation though as well.”

For other students, issues such as technical difficulties, anxiety or other personal problems can lead to them not liking the cameras-on policy. 

“I hate [cameras on] being mandatory,” sophomore Samara Buchanan said. “I have to move to my nightstand in front of my window instead of comfortably sitting at my desk, where I can productively do my work. It’s a hassle to make sure your lighting and angle are good and not having technical difficulties.”

However, to ease the nerves of some students about turning on their cameras, administration decided to have some fun with the new policy. On Wednesday, Dec. 2, the first day cameras were mandated, they conducted school wide competition to help the students feel more comfortable with their cameras on.

The students played a timed game where they would hold up an object that starts with a letter of the alphabet all the way from A to Z. The top three teachers with the fastest times won prizes.

“I had my class participate because it seemed like a fun, low pressure way to easy back into turning on their cameras, and I love a good team building challenge,” Newspaper adviser and creative writing teacher Melissa Falkowski said.

Along with Falkowski, AP English Literature teacher Andrea Kowalski-Rospierski and Biology teacher Lori Reich won as well, earning them a visit from Principal Kefford with their gift bags.

As the county is evaluating when it is safe to fully reopen schools, the school board believes that making students turn their cameras on will help teachers make sure that students are fully engaged throughout the school day. 

Staffer | + posts

Brianna Torres is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She has lived in four countries and enjoys meeting new people, learning new things, and visiting new places.

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