The new normal? Male teacher caught teaching online ‘special education’ class without his shirt

SAN JOSE, CA- Ok, this one is a little weird. We have heard a lot about the so-called “new normal” in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing that is considered the “new normal” is remote learning for students.

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In one such case, a class in San Jose got more than they bargained for when a teacher at Silver Creek High School logged onto a virtual class Friday minus his shirt.

Makaylah Herrera-Avila, 13, logged on to the start of her freshman special education math class. She told ABC7 News that:

“He seemed really awkward and kind of gave me like a weird vibe. And when he was using the camera, it was all shaking around and like, moving everywhere.”

“I realized he wasn’t wearing a shirt,” Makaylah told the outlet. “And that was kind of awkward, made me feel uncomfortable.”

So, Makaylah called her mom, Elizabeth Avila, who told her to take a screenshot of the screen and immediately log off. There were 10-15 other students logged into the class.

“Some of the kids in the class, they’re special needs, so they probably don’t realize that’s wrong,” said Avila.

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Avila took the pictures of the incident to Silver Creek High, then to the school district’s offices, where she provided the pictures to the officials there. She also asked whether the virtual class was recorded.

“They said no because it’s a violation of privacy and there’s a big old thing,” Avila said. “I go, ‘But what about the kids? You know, their safety—being exposed to things and can’t even prove it once it’s done?’”

Avila was not happy about that resolution, and she is asking the district to find ways to better monitor their staff.

“This should be like a zero-tolerance kind of thing,” she said. “Like, he’s grown. He knows the rules. He should not be exposing himself like that to all these minors. You know at the end of the day, they’re still kids and it’s wrong.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the teacher has been identified as Richard Cabral. According to the school district’s website, Cabral is listed as a special education teacher.

“When I came home and I tried talking to her about it,” Avila admitted. “I was like, ’Why didn’t you tell him like, hey, you’re breaking the rules, put a shirt on.’ She was just like, ‘No I’m gonna get in trouble You don’t tell a person of authority to do something.’”

That was the least of it. A Twitter account under Cabral’s name apparently had some questionable interests, including pornographic which has Avila concerned. We can see why. Check out “nut extractor 9000” and you’ll understand. 

“We’ve never had to deal with this kind of situation. You can sit there and say, ‘Don’t talk to strangers. And if someone touches you, or grown up does something to you, and it’s physically happening,’” she said. “But now this is virtual stuff. So, it’s a whole new world, this whole cyber stuff.”

Avila said that she has filed a formal statement with the school district.

In a statement, the superintendent of the ESUHSD said:

“The picture appears to be an employee of ESUHSD. At this time, I’m not going to release any information on the alleged employee. I will say that the behavior is unacceptable, unprofessional and violates several district policies.

“This situation is under investigation. In situations like this, an employee is immediately placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”

However, over the weekend, ABC-7 News reported an update on the story. Evidently, Cabral contacted students over the weekend with an update, which has infuriated parents.

Avila said that she was surprised that a subsequent email from Cabral had reached her daughter’s inbox Saturday night.

“My mind was blown! I was like, this guy really reached out to these kids,” Avila told ABC7. Avila said she immediately contacted the high school’s principal.

“I immediately called her and asked her, how does he still have access? If he was suspended, shouldn’t his access to these kids be terminated as well? Like what are his intentions now?” she said.

Avila was also not happy with the school district, saying that nobody has reached out to parents.

“We have a right to know what’s going on in our schools and stuff, and they’re not even doing their part of notifying us,” she told the station. “Here we are, almost Tuesday now, and still there’s no letter or nothing stating that.

“Who knows if there’s another child out there that might have been traumatized by this? And they don’t know how to speak up and tell their parents what they saw, in fear that they’re going to get in trouble.”

The email from Cabral said in part:

“It looks like I will not be teaching you for an indefinite period. I hope to be able to resume my teaching as soon as possible.”

The outlet continued that Avila said that Cabral never told the students why he was leaving, nor why he had been placed on leave. It was “very vague,” she said.

After ABC7’s story originally aired a week ago Friday, the station heard from another student. Rachel Garcia said that she had put two and two together and then asked her 13-year-old daughter about Cabral.

She asked her daughter if Cabral was her teacher, to which she answered the affirmative, then asked if he had been wearing a shirt, to which she said no.

Garcia looked for a note from the school district on Monday and was shocked to find the email from Cabral. She called that revelation “super upsetting.”

She too was upset about the lack of communication from the school district.

“An email could have made the situation a little bit better if we had gotten something from them,” she told ABC7 News. “But not hearing from anybody and then getting that email from him to my daughter…That wasn’t okay.”

The superintendent replied to inquiries from the news outlet about why Cabral still had access to the school email.

“He is not to be in contact with any of his students. There was a timing issue on Friday issuing his notice. I will not be commenting any further during this investigation.”

Avila said that she has hired a lawyer, however, wasn’t trying to pursue anything. She said that she wanted to make sure “that everything goes down the right way.”

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Indoctrination? County requires parents sign forms saying they won’t observe their child’s virtual learning

Rutherford County, TN– With all of the unknowns surrounding COVID-19, many school districts have either chosen to hold remote classes all day, part of the day, or as a parental option. 

Despite the fact that it might be the only or safest options for some, there are still many issues that revolve around virtual instruction. The privacy and safety of the children is one of the main issues. 

In response to this concern, County schools in the Rutherford County School (RCS) district are asking parents of students to sign forms that agree to the fact that they will not monitor their child’s virtual classroom sessions. 

The Tennessee Star received a copy of the form this week, and it states in part:

“RCS strives to present these opportunities in a secure format that protects student privacy to the greatest extent possible, however because these meetings will occur virtually RCS is limited in its ability to fully control certain factors such as non-student observers that may be present in the home of a student participating in the virtual meeting,

“RCS strongly discourages non student observation of online meetings due to the potential of confidential information about a student being revealed.”

The form requests a parents signature, but warns that:

“violation of this agreement may result in RCS removing my child from the virtual meeting.”

According to The Tennessee Star, Rutherford County Schools spokesman James Evans addressed the matter in an email this week, saying:

“We are aware of the concern that has been raised about this distance-learning letter that was sent to parents.

The intent was not to prevent parents from being involved with their children during distance learning, but it was intended to protect the academic privacy of other students in the classroom who are visible during certain virtual class sessions, 

“We have issued new guidance to principals that parents can assist their children during virtual group lessons with permission of the instructor but should refrain from sharing or recording any information about other students in the classroom.”

The Tennessee Department of Education has released a “toolkit on child wellbeing checks” to ensure the needs of the students are being met, in order to protect children while being outside of the typical school setting. The department will be hiring regional staff members, with COVID-19 grant money they received, to oversee this wellbeing program, and ensure children’s safety.  

Tennessee is not the only state addressing the safety of children while on remote instruction. Massachusetts has taken it to the extreme, and is encouraging teachers to call DCF if children do not attend their virtual classroom sessions. 

Massachusetts– When schools shut down out of the blue in March, many district, parents, and students were in uncharted waters.

Teachers, parents and students had to become tech savvy, parents had to become the teacher, and students had to make an attempt at learning through a computer screen. 

As if all of that was not hard enough, Massachusetts officials have apparently thought it was a good idea to call the police and the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) on parents when their children did not attend the students scheduled Zoom classroom. 

The Boston Globe reports that:

“Massachusetts school officials have reported dozens of families to state social workers for possible neglect charges because of issues related to their children’s participation in remote learning classes during the pandemic shutdown in the spring.”

It continues to say that in most cases:

“the referrals were made solely because students failed to log into class repeatedly. Most of the parents reported were mothers, and several did not have any previous involvement with social services.”

DCF, which is designed to check on the welfare of students, often times is prioritized with minority households, where both parents must work in order to feed their families. Unfortunately, many times this results in underage children being left alone to fend for themselves and younger siblings, in addition to attending virtual “school”, which does not happen. 

Reason Magazine’s Robby Soave points out that:

“Zoom school truancy could have serious consequences. The Massachusetts DCF is allowed to remove children from homes where they are experiencing abuse or neglect and place them into foster care — and DCF considers truancy a form of both.”

DCF has also urged teachers to report cases of suspected abuse to the agency if they observe things over virtual instruction that they feel is inappropriate in some way. 

Reason magazine reports:

“The department has the power to remove children from their homes and place them in foster care if agents suspect that kids are being mistreated, abused, or neglected—and DCF considers distance-learning no-shows to be possible abuse cases, 

“DCF lists numerous circumstances in which teachers should feel obliged to call the cops, among them kids appearing tired or hungry during Zoom sessions.”

In addition to being the new teachers, parents are not only struggling to educate their children, they most of the time are also balancing work, both in or out of the home, along with maintaining ordinary home tasks, which is no easy feat.

While parents are struggling, Reason Magazine notes that Massachusetts DCF is:

“not radically different from the child services departments in the other 49 states, and similar issues are probably cropping up elsewhere” 

While parents are insulted, embarrassed, and up in arms about the fact that DCF is being called on them, all of these cases may not always be due to “false” or unsubstantiated claims. These forced quarantines and school shut downs that have been handed down by governors, are not taking into account the students who are being abused, neglected, and going hungry, among many other difficulties they face. 

When a student is in school, a teacher is able to pick up on ques that a student is going through a hardship, however, when students are remote, it is difficult for teachers to pick up on those indicators that something is not right. If a teacher is reporting parents under the pretense that the students didn’t “attend zoom”, that might be a “mask” they are using for a bigger issue at hand. 

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