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Rutherford Institute creates ‘opt out’ form asserting Fourth Amendment rights during virtual learning

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Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 3:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - With many students across the country learning at home, the Rutherford Institute is now alerting families to make sure their Constitutional rights are being protected during virtual school.

“Teach the Constitution, don’t violate it,” president of the Rutherford Institute, John Whitehead said.

With cameras on for remote learning, families are essentially having teachers and other students seeing inside their home. For a Colorado family of a seventh grade student, that led to a visit from police.

“He had a little pistol called a zombie killer. It was green. He moved it across the screen several times and put it down. He was just looking at it,” Whitehead said. “The school said he had a weapon at school. When I saw that I said wait a second here that should not be true.”

Now, Whitehead is helping families protect themselves.

“Because they’re doing virtual education, it is not in the school, you’re not in the school,” Whitehead said.

The institute devised an ‘Opt Out’ form for parents and their kids to assert their Fourth Amendment rights.

“Fourth Amendment protects the citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures and what our opt out form says is it protects that,” Whitehead said.

The letter states, “Our child’s participation in remote learning pursuant to district policies and practices does not constitute my/our consent to the district or any other government official conducting a search of our property, whether by video surveillance or otherwise.”

“By having virtual education at home, you’re not consenting to a search or surveillance of your home,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead says this form is more than just a piece of paper, it’s about protecting basic rights.

“We want people to feel easy and feel comfortable in their school settings and not feel they’re in a surveillance state. They’re doing virtual school,” Whitehead said.

NBC29 reached out to Charlottesville City Schools about protecting their students' privacy rights and they said, “We ask family’s permission for the schools to use their child’s video/photo for official purposes, and we follow all student privacy laws. This was true before COVID-19 and is still true now.”

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