(Theresa Catalani) – Nevada public schools now offer students a 1.1 Tablet which provides a more high-tech learning experience. As a parent, I am expected to sign off on liability for the Tablet. Last year, when my youngest was a 5th grader at Fremont Elementary, I declined the Tablet and $500 liability. The school accommodated my son with paper and book lessons. He maintained straight A’s, was in leadership, and had an overall good learning experience.
My youngest has opted to homeschool this year, and my oldest son is going from a charter school onto Carson High School. Prior to this week, I had not considered the possibility that Carson High is using Tablets, so I’m running into this at the 11th hour. The contract presented to me is slightly different than the one offered last year, but overall is the same. The liability is set at $400. As a single mother whose income varies greatly from month to month, I am not comfortable taking on that risk/expense. Additionally, I have an issue with the Tablets due to student privacy/data collection concerns.
Found within the contract for the Chromebook “If a student fails to return the Chromebook, he or she will be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability if the replacement cost of $400 is not received within 30 days of the student’s departure. Failure to return or pay for the Chromebook will result in filing a police report for stolen property with the Carson City Sheriff’s Department.” Since when is the Sheriff’s Department the Debt Collection Arm/Repossession Agent of the Carson City School District??
Let’s compare this to overdue/lost items from the Carson City Library. In the past, I moved from Carson to Vegas then back to Carson. During that over 2 year period, I had two boxes of library books in my possession without legal consequence. Presently, I have four overdue items. Today, I received a letter with the following: a request that the items be returned, a dollar amount bill/replacement cost, and a reference to Nevada law.
“NRS 379.160. Willful detention of or damage to property of public library; penalties; liability of parent or guardian.
Any person who willfully detains any book, newspaper, magazine, pamphlet, manuscript, filmstrip or other property of any public library or reading room for more than 30 days after receipt of written notice demanding the return of any such article or property shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500.“
Sounds reasonable. At no point does the library threaten to claim the items as STOLEN, and at no point will law enforcement become involved. So…What are our schools doing? How many parents are blindly signing these contracts?
Yesterday, I completed the enrollment process for my oldest son to begin ninth grade. There was some concern raised over declining a Tablet, primarily from the guidance counselor who explained that traditional computers have been removed from the classrooms by teachers who made the choice to remove them over space concerns. I requested that a standard computer be made available to my son for when he might need to access the Internet, spell check a document, and print. Today, I received a phone call from Vice Principal Gavin Ward who expressed grave concern over my son not being allowed to use a Tablet or email. I stood my ground as he tried to convince me that my son would not be able to be accommodated in two of his classes. One of the classes is an elective – Engineering; a class my son is eager to take and I demand he be allowed to remain enrolled in it. Mr. Ward did not back down, so I requested he send an email outlining his concerns and class options; the email has yet to arrive. I let him know that if my son is not properly accommodated, I will sue. There are countless reasons a child might need special accommodations, and they are all provided without question. My son needs to be treated the same as any other child. Additionally, as the parent, I should not need to feel bullied into changing my position.
It seems as though the school is forgetting that I am not legally required to sign off on liability. Did the schools fail to consider that some parents might not be comfortable with these tablets? I am confident that I am not the only parent in Nevada who has concerns. Additionally, I have read articles about parents in other states who have run into these situations.
What if I do allow my son to use a Tablet and he misplaces or damages it beyond repair? Instead of offering paper and book lessons as a backup option, the contract lists costs for repairs ranging from $20 to the full $400 and states:
5.3) Theft and Destruction of School Property (Chromebooks)
1) Stealing /Robbery: Students involved in stealing or robbery or in possession of stolen property on school grounds or school transportation: suspension and possible ARREST.
2) Property Damage: Students involved in the willful destruction or defacing of school property or the property of others. (The offender’s’ parents/guardians will be held responsible for repairing or replacing damaged school property per NRS 41.470): suspension and cost of damage.
Interpreted: If you break it, you can be legally accused of doing it intentionally. Are you feeling lucky? I’m not, so I will not put my son or myself in that position.
Due to time constraints, I have not gone into detail about student privacy/data collection concerns in this letter, but will be happy to do so in a follow up. For now, a good question to consider: If a parent offers to provide a personally owned Chromebook identical to the one being provided by the school district, that offer will be declined. Why?