Teachers Do Not Have an Expectation of Privacy in Virtual Classrooms

A school district disciplined a teacher for a comment she made to her students during a Zoom class (the specific comment was never identified). The teacher filed suit, alleging that the district violated—in pertinent part—the Illinois Eavesdropping Act when the district’s then-Director of Human Resources directed two other district employees to eavesdrop on her Zoom class and then disciplined her for “one, discrete comment made in a classroom chat.”

In Illinois, an individual violates the Eavesdropping Act when they surreptitiously use an eavesdropping device to overhear a “private conversation” or transcribe a “private electronic communication” where the eavesdropper is not a party to the communication, does not have the consent of all the parties to the communication, and at least one of the parties intended the communication to be private “under circumstances reasonably justifying that expectation.” Here, the court found that public school teachers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their classrooms, regardless of whether the classroom is in-person or virtual, because classrooms are “continually entered” by students and often by other colleagues, staff, and administrators. Further, any expectation of privacy is simply unreasonable given that students and non-intended recipients (e.g., parents and siblings during a virtual class) are free to repeat what they hear or see during class.

Source:

Peters v. Mundelein Consol. High Sch. Dist. No. 120, 21 C 0336, 2022 WL 393572 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 9, 2022)