Zoom Ethics: And You Thought The School Board President Who Had To Resign Because He Drank A Beer In His Home During An Online Meeting Was Crazy…

This is even worse.

The post about the scandalous swig of beer was less than a month ago, but in comparison to the events of the last couple weeks, the Covina, California story doesn’t seem anywhere near as nuts as as it did at the time. Then, Ethics Alarms was concerned with privacy and officious inter-meddlers dictating how citizens get to behave in their own homes. I even called the incident a “freakout”! Now we know what a real freakout looks like.

The poll on whether poor Brian Akers, the ex-president of the Charter Oak Unified School Board who impulsively guzzled a beer while on camera during a remote board meeting was unfairly maligned was pretty decisive:

I won’t bother to poll today’s Zoom ethics story. If I did, my question might be, “How could you justify continuing to let your child go to a school with employees like this?”

In Baltimore County Maryland, a 5th grade teacher at the Seneca School saw a BB gun hanging on the wall in an 11-year-old student’s bedroom.  The Horror. She notified the principal, who alerted the school safety officer, who then called the police, who made an unannounced visit to the student’s home.

The child’s mother, Courtney Lancaster, a military veteran, has extensive knowledge of guns, how to use them and how to store them, and she is ticked-off.

Her 11-year-old son is a Boy Scout in the fifth grade at the school. In his pursuit of becoming an Eagle Scout, Ms. Lancaster says, he has learned how to shoot BB and Airsoft guns. He’s also mastering archery, and stores his bow and guns on a wall in his bedroom. Yet on June 1, police pulled up outside her house with no warning like the kid was a domestic terrorist.

“The officer explained to me that he was here to search for weapons, in my home,” Lancaster said. The teacher had even taken a screenshot of the child’s room, and the school’s resource officer had deemed this sufficiently incriminating to turn it over to law enforcement.  The school’s principal even argued that the child having a BB gun in his room was like bringing a real gun to school. Right. That makes a lot of sense. And if anyone could see the family dog via Zoom, that would be like bringing the dog to school.

Teachers and administrators this bad at  reasoning must not be allowed to teach.

“This is despicable,” Lancaster said, in an understatement. “I had no idea what in the world [the police visit] could be over? BB guns never even once entered my mind. How many 11-year-old boys have BB guns?”

As for the teacher taking a screenshot of her son’s bedroom, she said,  “It’s absolutely scary to think about. Who are on these calls? Who do we have viewing your children and subsequently taking these screenshots that can be sent anywhere or used for any purpose? So, what are the parameters? Where are the lines drawn? If my son is sitting at the kitchen island next to a butcher block, does that constitute a weapon? It’s not allowed at school, right? So, would my home then be searched because he’s sitting next to a butcher block?”

Good questions all, with what should have easy answers. Unfortunately,  school administrators at the Seneca School lack the wit and consciences to instantly express regret over the whole episode and agree to wear paper bags over their heads in penance.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the district said in part, “In general terms, the safety of students and staff is our chief concern, whether we are meeting in classrooms or via continuity of learning.” Oh! Safety! The kid was a threat to use his BB gun to attack the  other students and the teacher right through the computer!

Here’s something I could poll: which word has more completely lost any semblance of meaning in the deceitful rhetoric of progressives, “racism” or “safe”?

Or maybe I should ask if Baltimore County would have sicced the cops on this completely and obviously innocent child after recent events in Minnesota convinced deep blue Maryland that the police are spawn of the Devil…or if this incident would have happened then or now if Lancaster’s son were black.

One of the dangers when everything spins out of control, like it is now thanks to the George Floyd Freakout, is that Rationalization #22, The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things,” makes it tempting to shrug off unethical and destructive conduct that suddenly seems trivial compared to the chaos. After all, what’s an incompetent, gun-phobic teacher treating a child like a dangerous criminal because he has a completely legal toy gun in his bedroom,  when Seattle is letting a mob of anarchists take over parts of the city?

“I feel like parents need to be made aware of what the implications are, what the expectations are,” Lancaster told reporters. No, parents need to tell schools, administrators and teachers, what parents will tolerate, and the public education system needs a thorough upgrade and overhaul.


Sources: Fox News, The Blaze


42 thoughts on “Zoom Ethics: And You Thought The School Board President Who Had To Resign Because He Drank A Beer In His Home During An Online Meeting Was Crazy…

  1. The thing that really is appalling in this story is that the level of stupidity did not diminish as it went up the chain. An airhead teacher? Not acceptable, but understandable. But the principal, the safety officer, the police — not a reasonable person in that group who called a halt to this nonsense?
    The police officer may have been ordered to make a home visit, but at least three of these people have demonstrated their incompetence. I’m quite sure there will be no real impact on any of them.

    • The police are in the worst spot, because they get a report from the school that a student was displaying weapons. The police really don’t know what they are going to find. Who knows what game of telephone happened between the teacher, principle, dispatch, and responding officers. Everyone is relying on the goodfaith of the prior that there is something dangerous that needs a response.

      So the police show up armed for potential weapons search. All because of an unnecessary report to the police.

      The teacher should have called the parent, and asked that they be careful not to display the gun in the student’s study area. It is a legitimate distraction – 11 year old’s love BB guns (source: taught BB at camp). Again, we need tolerance for minor mistakes, because everyone is on edge and on public display more than they are used to.

    • The police don’t really have a choice. If they blow it off as ridiculous, they are accused of not taking school violence seriously. They have to go in, treat it seriously, and investigate. Who is going to back them if the principal complains to the mayor or police chief. Those people want to abolish the police or defund them. Officers are being fired left and right for ‘not following orders’ when mayors order them to fine people in their cars in church parking lots, etc. Officers are required to fine people for going to church, but not to arrest people for burning down the church. How do you deal with that situation as an officer? You either resign or you keep your head down and do what you are told, no matter how idiotic.

  2. Outrageous. What else could get a kid in trouble during a Zoom session?

    * An American flag on the wall?
    * Visible names of books on a bookshelf that don’t align with Progressive cant?
    * Dad getting something out of the fridge bare-chested?
    * A cross or other religious decorations?

    I know I’ve written this before, but schools and businesses are going to have to be more flexible about certain things – not everything, mind you – while families are coping with having everyone home at the same time. I know that, once this is over, as these organizations invest more in remote technology, there will be guidelines put in place for acceptable dress and conduct during learning and working hours.

    For now, though, since this has been thrust upon us with little preparation, people are going to have to suppress the impulse to whip out their phones every time someone isn’t wearing a mask in Sam’s Club. Customers need to chill out about calling their bank and hearing the representative’s kids or dog in the background. And teachers are going to have to stay calm when they see something perfectly legal in a student’s home that doesn’t fit their worldview.

    This does not mean that lawyers should be litigating in their pajamas or that people shouldn’t be mindful of where they carry that webcam-enabled laptop while in their home, but the abuse of technology is creating mini-totalitarians everywhere which is not conducive to a free and civil society.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. I work for a company that has been 100% virtual since its inception 23 years ago. We are just used to operating that way. But for those that are new to a work from home situation a little grace needs to be extended. The employer needs to remember that they have been invited into someone’s home, where life continues: like barking dogs, and ringing doorbells, and family members who may momentarily come into view of the camera.

      What ever happened to extending a little grace to one another? Whatever happened to allowing another person to save face when they didn’t get something quite right the first time? Mini-totalitarians is right. Who do these people think they are?

      • What ever happened to extending a little grace to one another? Whatever happened to allowing another person to save face when they didn’t get something quite right the first time? Mini-totalitarians is right. Who do these people think they are?


        • Funny, coming from you – of all people. You said you were done and yet here you are, again with nothing but condescension and snark. It’s like you can’t help yourself.

          This is the last time I will ever respond to you.

          • Wait! You said you were done (“We are done here”) but I am never done!

            Snark? Me? I merely asked if you had a mirror in your house! That is to say if you can see yourself.

            This is part of one of more important observations about our present: that many people easily condemn the other — some ‘enemy’ they have perceived ‘over there’ — but cannot see what they themselves do!

            I see this all the time on this blog. And I think it is a valid point to make.

            I merely chided you because you do not see the many levels of irony in what you wrote:

            What ever happened to extending a little grace to one another? Whatever happened to allowing another person to save face when they didn’t get something quite right the first time? Mini-totalitarians is right. Who do these people think they are?

            Don’t you see?!? We must crush and annihilate our enemies. They are that bad and that deserving.

  3. I can hear the conversation now…

    Officer: We’re here to search for weapons in your home.

    Home Owner: Where’s your warrant?

    Officer: Your son’s school called the police and said your son brought a gun to school today.

    Home Owner: My son hasn’t been to school in months, all the schools are closed due to the COVID-19. Where’s your warrant?

    Officer: The school said that your son has a weapon hanging on his bedroom wall and it was visible to the teacher during online classes; that’s bringing a weapon to school.

    Home Owner: Officer, do you hear yourself? My son’s bedroom is not inside the school building, it’s inside my home. The teachers are not inside the school building, the schools are all closed due to COVID-19. Where’s your warrant?

    Officer: The school is concerned about your son’s safety, we’re just here trying to make sure your son is safe.

    Home Owner: Making sure my son is safe in my home is my responsibility not yours or the school’s. Where’s your warrant?

    Officer: If you don’t let us in to search for weapons we’ll have to detain you and your son.

    Home Owner: Detain us, what for? Where’s your warrant?

    Officer: You are obstructing an Officer in the performance of his duties.

    Home Owner: Where’s your warrant?

    Officer: We don’t have a warrant, we are asking for your cooperation with this health and welfare check.

    Home Owner: No warrant? First you say you’re here to search for weapons in my home, next you say my son took a weapon to school, then you say you’re here to make sure my son is safe, then you say you’re going to detain us for obstructing an Officer, now you’re saying that this is a health and welfare check. You’re simply trying to intimidate your way inside my home and I’m exerting my Constitutional rights not to have my home illegally invaded and illegally searched without a warrant by Police Officers that swore to uphold the law and have no logical reason to be bothering me. You can tell that snowflake teacher and the school to get a grip on reality, my son’s bedroom is not within her jurisdiction to control and I’ll be filing a formal complaint against the teacher for invasion of privacy and the school for making false claims to the police. I’ll also make sure that the local news papers and TV stations get a detailed report of your visit here today. Thank you for your service and have a great day. (Homeowner calmly shuts door and walks away.)

    (Officers stand on the front porch for a moment with their mouths hanging open, then turn and walk away.)

    • Academics have relied on in loco parens to justify some heavy handed rules . Too bad they fail to understand that it means in the place of parents when the parents are not in that location.

      Distance learning obviates that construct.

  4. No mention of this in your story, but did the police bother to get a search warrant before they invaded this home? Or was the threat too immediate to bother with such Constitutional niceties?

  5. Wait. I’m confused. The school called the … Police? What? The police? Don’t they know the police are murdering unarmed citizens daily? They endangered this child in this way? There’s still a police department in this jurisdiction? They didn’t send a social worker? They were concerned about the child’s safety and they exposed him to being murdered by a police officer in his own home? Defund the Schools!

    • It would have been interesting if the Eagle Scout kid was black. When the cops came to confiscate the BB gun and arrest everybody, BLM and Al Sharpton could have shown up at the police precinct and we could have had a nice city riot.

    • Don’t they know the police are murdering unarmed citizens daily?

      Ah, but the was armed!

      (with a BB-gun 🤦‍♂️)

  6. I am less perturbed by the stupidity of school officials in this case than I am by the police allowing themselves to be manipulated like this. As a street cop and a supervisor I had to often call shenanigans on people who wanted to finagle police authority to their own purposes. “Make my neighbor do so-and-so!” “Put those kids in jail, they’re bothering me!” You get the idea.
    Even if the officer(s) were ordered to go to the home, no one likely ordered them to be officious jerks about it.
    When I was the supervisor of our school resource officers, I had to keep a close check on school principals who often assumed more authority over our officers than they actually possessed. This is definitely not an agency putting its best foot forward to build community relationships!

    • From the article, it doesn’t appear that the officers at the house were officious jerks, but the school officials certainly were, in addition to being muddle-headed.

    • Having walked in those shoes myself, James, I agree. My problem would be explaining to my watch commander why I felt my irate phone call to the dispatch center, and the attendant profanity (I had been in the Army once), were a reasonable response to the situation.

  7. I commented on the other case because 1) I missed it and 2) I disagreed with most of the comments on it. This I think is a closer call… Part of my argument against drinking beer on a Zoom call was that the zoom meeting is an employment activity, and regardless of it happening in your home, there are certain professional standards one might want to adhere to. Your employer is paying you, they can set reasonable limitations on you while paying you.

    This is different because as opposed to work, school is a government mandated activity. I think there’s an argument that the school might have requested that the student either change the camera angle, remove the weapons, or turn his camera off, and it would have been the right thing to do to comply. I think that would be true of graphic posters hung on a wall, or if the student decided not to wear a shirt, as other examples…. But that’s neither here nor there because it’s frankly insane to escalate from zero to calling the police, and yet, that’s what happened.

          • Mostly, I think I was trying to highlight the absurdity of this expectation that employers, schools, volunteer groups, ect. cannot act based on what they see in a zoom meeting. That’s not true, and it’s obviously not true. Once we back away from the edge and agree on an extreme example of something outside the pale (I think everyone agrees that someone actively having sex during a Zoom session is drastically out of line) then we can start peeling back to where reasonable people disagree and have those conversations.

            I also think that someone else nailed it on the head when they mentioned social media policies. I’m old enough to remember when social media was taking off, and professionals started getting busted doing stupid things on Facebook and getting themselves fired. This is almost exactly the same; New technology and situations that people aren’t used to, rules that aren’t clearly defined, people not thinking things through, authoritarians authoritarianing. “My house, my rules” is the new “Facebook is Private”. It’s a great bumper sticker, but it’s not true; Sure, It’s your house, sure, you’ve made rules, but your employer doesn’t have to abide by them, and if you do something that goes against your terms of employment, or isn’t legal, or is in exceptionally poor taste, that doesn’t mean your employer/school/organization cannot act.

            I don’t agree with what the school did in this situation, but I have some sympathy for the position of the school board from the previous example, even if I think it was a little overstated and uncharitable.

  8. Where I teach, it’s forbidden for teachers to take pictures of students without permission from their parents. Further, my son was taking a university level class and had some tech difficulties during part of a zoom lecture, and asked the teacher if there were a recorded copy he could review to see the parts he missed. She told him they were legally prevented from recording sessions. This is in California, and I don’t know how privacy laws compare in Maryland, but if I were the parent I would certainly be investigating the possibility of a claim against the teacher and school district.

    One takeaway, though, for the sensible but not yet zoom proficient, is to learn to check what’s behind you before you do one of these meetings, and to train your kids to do the same. The idea hadn’t even occured to me until a month ago when I saw a YouTube video about how to best present yourself in these meetings.

  9. Life imitating art: “And if anyone could see the family dog via Zoom, that would be like bringing the dog to school.”

    Amusing anecdote, sort of unrelated to the post.

    As Ethics Alarmists know, we have a son (he’s 16), and we have a very, very fine dog (his name is Lord Remington Winchester Burger, Esq., Dog of Letters). Well, our son’s high school has used distant learning since March because of the stupid overreaction to COVID-19. Yeah, I said that. It was a stupid overreaction, capitulating to the hysterics and maniacs.

    Our son did the distance learning in his room, from his desk. His desk faces a wall and behind him is his sleeping furniture, a/k/a his bed. What, pray tell, did he have on his bed? Well, the aforementioned Hound of Glory, Lord Remington. During his online classes, Remington would invariably wake from one of his most necessary and frequent naps, stretch, yawn, stamp around in a circle, lay back down again, sigh heavily from the arduous task of nap preparation, and go right back to sleep. His teachers and classmates began to notice this ritual in the background and would call Remington out during classes when His Highness engaged in napping techniques, to the great amusement of everyone.


  10. A question has been niggling* at me since the anti-gun mob first started gathering. If they are successful

    … as presumably they have already removed anything gun-like from sight of their children, monitored any shoot-em-up movies (meaning all Westerns – are there any of the Saturday kid-matinee cowboy/indian ones around anymore? Nah, racism + guns go down together, yay team!! Sorry, Jack)

    …and if parents and teachers – plus the now pervasive school/corporate propaganda and collusion – succeed in convincing the children guns are “bad”

    …or in frightening the hell out of them as some idiots have done by surprising their youngsters with the sound of real-life 140-decibel gunshots (so far not close enough to deafen them… though that’s hearsay, no pun here)

    …or in “cleansing” library shelves and online sites of both physical and virtual firearms in fact, fiction or fantasy,

    … and photoshopping, editing and otherwise erasing their resemblance from illustrations, cartoons and films,

    …as well as eradicating all the signs and symbols of histories they can’t or don’t want to understand …

    — then who is going to man* the police for domestic defense much less the military (think Draft), not only for defense of foreign shores but from easy national invasion from all the other gun-bearing populations ?

    Do they really believe, as one young person chirped on NPR the other day, that “we are the generation that is changing the whole world?”

    No. I think, rather, that they have not given a moment’s consideration to what their kind of gun-control or, for that matter, all the other kinds of coerced control and censorship can do to the minds of even a part of a generation that is mad enough to come up with a slogan like that.


    • As I explained in my Westerns program for the Smithsonian, efforts to expunge guns (and gun-love) from the culture is naive and futile, regardless of periodic phobic episodes like this one. Peruse TV and do some channel-jumping. You can’t go 15 minutes without encountering a story where guns save the day. Old movies, new movies, old TV, new TV—the British shows with unarmed cops seem positively weird. The new Harriet Tubman movie showed her as a badass with a gun. The US was uniquely dependent on guns for its existence, and Guns Good is embedded in the culture no matter how much Guns Bad propaganda gets tossed at us. I was just talking about the issue to my non-gun favoring neighbors, who laughed about their neighbors in the South Carolina countryside where they spend their summers. “Everyone had not just one gun, but ten or twenty,” she laughed.

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