Thanks to the coronavirus crisis, Courtney Lancaster got a lesson in government overreach no parent wants to learn.
But it’s one every American needs to take to heart.
The Baltimore County woman, whose son took part in online classrooms because of a coronavirus school shutdown, recently found herself facing a police officer at her door requesting to search her home because her son’s BB gun had been spotted in the background during a classroom session he joined in his bedroom.
The lesson plan for the day pretty clearly didn’t involve the Second Amendment, because the “weapon” apparently alarmed someone badly enough that the viewer took a screenshot of the boy’s bedroom during an online class. The school’s principal was notified, WBFF-TV reported, and the school safety officer passed the picture on to police.
Courtney Lancaster, the boy’s mother and a Navy veteran, told WBFF she had no idea what a police officer was doing at her home when he showed up June 1.
“The police officer was, he was very nice. He explained to me that he was coming to address an issue with my son’s school,” Lancaster said.
“And then explained to me that he was here to search for weapons, in my home. And I consented to let him in. And then I, unfortunately, stood there and watched police officers enter my 11-year-old son’s bedroom.”
The search took only 20 minutes, according to the station. But the effects are still lingering.
Since the incident, Lancaster has contacted Baltimore County school officials to try to get some answers about how her son’s private belongings, which were nowhere near school property, had become the business of the school district.
She said she was told she was not allowed to see the screenshot — an image of her 11-year-old son’s bedroom, remember — because it was not part of his student record.
“It’s absolutely scary to think about,” Lancaster told the station. “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?”
Questioned by WBFF, the school district responded with a statement that was even worse than “no comment.”
“Our longstanding policy is to not debate individual circumstances through the media,” the statement said, according to WBFF. “There are multiple ways for families to share concerns with us. In general terms, the safety of students and staff is our chief concern, whether we are meeting in classrooms or via continuity of learning.”
In short, “Talk to the hand.”
But parents should have a lot of questions — and not just in Baltimore County. The coronavirus shutdowns affected virtually every school in the country, with countless millions of children taking part in online classes.
This incident, where police officers searched a home because of something that was witnessed in a child’s bedroom, raises a host of issues:
By what reasoning is an object seen in the background of a scene in a child’s home considered at all relevant to school?
Who might be taking screenshots of online classes, and how are they being used? (If the picture in question were taken from an 11-year-old girl’s bedroom, there would probably be a very different conversation going on.)
How far are Americans willing to allow the government to reach into their personal lives? The coronavirus conditions aren’t going to last forever (hopefully) but it’s doubtful online classrooms, even at primary school levels, are going to disappear completely.
The BB gun incident from Baltimore County is a case study in the law of unintended consequences: Americans who open their homes to the prying eyes of the government — and of busybody gun grabbers who don’t stint at taking pictures of the bedrooms of preteens and sharing them around — are more vulnerable than most might have thought.
That’s a lesson that shouldn’t be forgotten.
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