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East Valley School District says teacher’s video of PE class routine, parent’s complaint unfounded

A man holding a cellphone with a blurred screen. (Tri-City Herald)
A man holding a cellphone with a blurred screen. (Tri-City Herald)
By Donald W. Meyers Yakima Herald-Republic

East Valley School District officials say a middle-school physical education teacher did nothing wrong by recording video of students doing a gym exercise with his personal cellphone.

A student’s mother complained to the district earlier this month that her daughter was recorded while doing exercises without her consent or knowledge.

But district officials say the videos from the gym and other classes are used as a teaching tool to help students, and that in this particular case nothing untoward was done.

“I reviewed the cellphone video, the video on the school device and the surveillance video from the gym, and there was no evidence of misconduct whatsoever,” said Russ Hill, assistant school superintendent.

A parent of an East Valley Central student complained that the gym teacher recorded students exercising in class on his personal cellphone. In a Facebook post, the woman said the male teacher recorded the students doing squats, stretches and kicks, and did not have her permission to take video or pictures. She declined an on-the-?record interview, and didn’t want her name used in this story.

Under district policy, parents can “opt out” of having their student’s pictures taken and used as part of a class, school or district project or publication. Superintendent John Schieche and Hill said the policy is in student handbooks and the district calendar and is discussed at the beginning of the school year.

In this particular case, the family didn’t opt out of having their daughter photographed or recorded, district officials said.

Schieche said recordings are routinely used for teaching and training purposes at East Valley and other districts. Music teachers, as well as advisers in the Future Farmers of America, JROTC instructors and athletic coaches use video help students improve their performance or to provide additional feedback.

Football coaches, for example, have routinely filmed or recorded games for years to go over afterward to improve team performance, Schieche said. The big difference today is that most people now carry cellphones capable of shooting still photos and video, Schieche said.

Teachers who use their own phones to record in class are told to transfer the video to a school machine and are expected to delete the video from their phones, Hill said. He said it is a guideline, not a policy.

In the event of a complaint, the district will review the video, as well as inspect the teacher’s phone, Hill said, adding that is what he did in this case. The video in question showed a group of students and was not centered on any individual, Hill said.

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