Let me see your faces

PWCS implements a “cameras on” policy


Student on a zoom call.

Emma Swain, Author

Virtual schooling is in full effect as the 2020-21 school year kicks off during a very adamant pandemic. PWCS originally did not require students to have their cameras on as it was a concern of invasion of privacy and because of the uncertain approach to virtual schooling. However, towards the end of the first quarter, PWCS announced that it is requiring all students to turn their cameras on during class unless given permission not to.  

It came after a vocal distress from teachers about talking to a bunch of “black screens” as well as a major worry for cheating and disengagement. AP US Government teacher, Mr. Schelzo, says, “I tend to assume with cameras off they are NOT paying attention or are not even there. That may not be fair, but it is the take I get when they are off.” Schelzo is very adamant about participating in class and keeping cameras turned on to ensure students are engaged in class discussions and lectures.   

While Probability and Statistics teacher, Mrs. Hedden, says, I am looking at this request as a mom and a teacher. I can’t make kids turn their cameras on. They may not have a private place in their home suitable for cameras on. My students might not have high speed internet and turning their cameras on would kick them out of class.” She does feel a little distressed when she teaches a class with no cameras on, and she is always delighted when a student turns their camera on.  

However, despite making it a requirement, some students continue to keep their cameras turned off. Some teachers let it slide, while others threaten to deduct points from their grade or mark the student as absent. Schelzo explains, “We require them to come to school by law and to dress and behave in certain ways in normal time, so no, be smart about your circumstances and suck it up for a few more months. However, he does not believe that teachers should be marking students absent or deducting points from their grades because everyone is bound to have access and internet issues.   

Hedden has a similar belief as she explains, “I hope teachers are not marking down grades. Having cameras on or off has nothing to do with students’ knowledge and mastery of the material. As far as attendance, that is up to each teacher’s discretion and policy.”  

From a student’s perspective, it can be an invasive feeling having teachers and classmates see inside their house. Rather vulnerable, students are exposing their natural, comfortable environments to the rest of their class when maybe it is something they seek to be private and personal. Senior Claire Marche explains, Despite being told to turn our cameras on to prove engagement, having them on during class only makes it harder to be engaged. All I can think about is how I look or if people are watching me instead of class. Not to mention the surroundings are out of my control. Who knows what others will see?  

With the second quarter here, it will be up in the air how well this policy works. PWCS may continue to enforce this policy, or they may change their minds and let the camera be a student option.