A Baltimore County mother is issuing a warning to other parents after police were called to their home over a virtual class incident. This incident has sparked privacy and safety concerns in virtual learning.
Courtney Lancaster, a Navy veteran with four years of active duty, stated that the incident unfolded because of her 11-year-old son’s BB guns. Her son is a fifth grader at Seneca Elementary School.
She told Project Baltimore: “He's just a very intellectual child, but he's all boy as well. He loves to be outside and play and ride his bikes and that sort of thing.”
She stated that in his pursuit of becoming an Eagle Scout, her son learned how to shoot BB guns and an airsoft gun, and took three levels of archery lessons. She said that the boy stored his bow and guns on a wall in his bedroom.
According to Courtney, there had been no problem with the setting until police showed up at her home.
She said: “I had no idea what to think. I've never been in any legal trouble whatsoever. I've never had any negative encounter with law enforcement. I had no idea. I really didn't know what to think.”
She had been home with her son, who had been having virtual lessons.
She told Project Baltimore: “So, I answered the door. 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. 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.”
She was told that someone had seen guns in her son’s bedroom during a Google Meet class.
“I thought, this is outrageous. This is despicable. I had no idea what in the world could this be over? BB guns never even once entered my mind. How many 11-year-old boys have BB guns?” she said.
In emails she exchanged with a school administrator, Courtney was told that a screenshot was taken during the online class and the principal notified. The school safety officer then called police.
“I felt violated as a parent, for my child, who's standing there with police officers in his room, just to see the fear on his face,” Courtney stated, adding that the officers left after 20 minutes and found no laws had been broken and there were no dangers present.
An outraged Courtney began writing to the school administrators, the district superintendent and the school board, demanding answers. She states that incident meant that the principal compared having a weapon in virtual class to carrying a weapon to school.
She was also barred from seeing the screenshot taken of her son’s bedroom because it was not part of his student record.
“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?” she asked.
The Baltimore County Schools issued the following statement to Project Baltimore: “Our longstanding policy is to not debate individual circumstances through the media. 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.”
Courtney maintained that she understood the safety concerns, but she’s outraged no one called her before involving authorities.
“There's no more trust. There have just been a series of lies and just no cooperation,” she said.
She is worried about the future of virtual learning, when there are no clear policies in place.
“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,” she said. “I feel like parents need to be made aware of what the implications are, what the expectations are.”
Sources: Fox Baltimore