This is a recording: When is it smart to catch a teacher being dumb?

Folks do dumb things. Dumb criminals. Dumb politicians. And we’ve all seen at least one video of some guy who wants to be amusing and daring with fireworks, but ends up earning the nickname “Stumpy.”

 

One of the most recent dumb things comes from Greene County, just down the road. It’s a story about a teacher accused of doing something dumb, supposedly caught by a student who thought she was doing something smart.

 

SHANIAYA HUNTER is a 16-year-old junior at Greene County High School. Because one of her retinas is detached and her other retina has holes in it, she has missed a lot of class time for medical care. So when she does make it to class, she likely has to ask questions to get back up to speed.

In American history class last December, she asked her teacher for clarification on 19th-century abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

After a pause, the teacher – identified as Cory Hunter (no relation to Shaniaya) – says: “You know what? You might be the dumbest girl I’ve ever met in my life and I have been around for 37 years and clearly you are the dumbest girl that I have ever met.”

Nice.

And dumb.

I know many, many teachers. I wouldn’t insult them by asking if calling a student “dumb” is an accepted pedagogic technique that’s taught in college. Maybe it works for drill sergeants in war movies, but I can’t picture it being successful in a classroom.

The teacher also said to Shaniaya: “You know what your purpose gonna be? To have sex and have children because you ain’t never gonna be smart.”

He ain’t never gonna teach English, either.

The teacher then went on and on, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “about having sex with several women on a desert island.” Because, you know, this is a high-school history class.

The tirade is available publicly because Shaniaya’s parents released a recording of it. She captured it all on her school-issued iPad.

Is that legal? Well, keep reading.

Georgia is what’s called a “one-party” state, which means people can record conversations, usually over the phone or in person, with the consent of just one of the parties involved.

 

AS A WRITER I’ve recorded folks like this a million times. You can mark the chapters of my career by the different tape recorders, then digital recorders, I’ve owned.

I’ve even been on the other end of the conversation, too. Years ago I was covering a city council election in a town of maybe 2,000 people. One of the candidates – nice guy – seemed to think he had been misquoted in my paper (he wasn’t). I began noticing, when I called him for interviews, he would move to another phone extension in his house. Then I’d hear this familiar “ka-chunk” on his end – the sound of the “record” and “play” button being pressed at the same time on an old-fashioned cassette deck.

It was positively Nixonian. And he lost the election, by the way.

But what he did was legal.

So Shaniaya has nothing to worry about, right? Maybe.

An important question as this case unfolds is whether the teacher knew he was being recorded. Yes, Georgia is a one-party state. But there also is an eavesdropping law on the books.

Recording in a public place without the consent of those being recorded is legal. But if you record in a private place or a public place that is out of public view, you need the consent of everyone being recorded.

It could be up to a prosecutor or a judge to determine a) just how public or private a classroom is, and b) whether Shaniaya was recording without legal consent of her teacher, who also has rights.

This could end in at least two ways.

One way: Shaniaya’s lawyer threatened legal action if the teacher wasn’t fired by March 11. That was Friday. I think the teacher who apparently was dumb enough to call a student dumb should get punished harshly for making a girl feel small in front of her peers. The teacher, by his actions, appears much smaller.

 

ANOTHER WAY: This case, if lawyers wish to pursue it further, could have huge implications for every student who ever has recorded a lecture. If a Georgia classroom is considered “out of public view,” does that mean every freshman in a biology class at UGA needs permission from the other 200 freshmen in the class? And the professor?

Similar cases have surfaced
in several states. Parents of an autistic first-grade girl sued a Florida school district in 2012 after a recording surfaced of adults in the girl’s classroom calling her, among other things, “a hippo in a ballerina dress” and a “beached whale.”

I couldn’t immediately find out how that case turned out. But however the Greene County case ends, I hope someone remembers to record the results.

 

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