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Communication curbs for curious parents

Schools restrict guardian access to protect teachers’ privacy
In several schools teachers have had to form WhatsApp groups with parents to share meeting links and passwords before every online class. Many parents have been using the platform to communicate among themselves or send across messages to teachers, at times all day.

Jhinuk Mazumdar   |   Calcutta   |   Published 08.05.20, 12:17 AM

Schools have come up with different ways to curb the enthusiasm of parents during online classes and restrict communication with them to ensure the privacy of teachers.

From allowing only teachers to send messages in WhatsApp groups with parents to asking students to switch on the video to ensure parents do not log in from another device, schools are trying to tackle curious parents.

In several schools teachers have had to form WhatsApp groups with parents to share meeting links and passwords before every online class. Many parents have been using the platform to communicate among themselves or send across messages to teachers, at times all day.

In one school, a mother messaged a teacher, asking her to join a parents’ group instead of forming a new one, to which the teacher politely replied: “Leave it to us Ma’am.”

Teachers at another school have had to deal with parents discussing issues such as school fees in a group that includes teachers as well.

La Martiniere for Boys teachers have formed groups with parents where only they can send messages and not the parents.

“If there is something urgent that parents have to share they can send messages to the teacher separately. But we have disabled the option of parents writing in the group to stop parents from chatting and communicating with each other in the same group,” said John Rafi, the principal of La Martiniere for Boys. Teachers share the ID and password five minutes before the class to prevent leak.

Calcutta Girls’ High School has stipulated two hours in a day when teachers will answer the queries of parents or children. At Mahadevi Birla World Academy, WhatsApp communication is restricted to school hours.

Several schools like La Martiniere for Boys and Mahadevi Birla World Academy lock meeting rooms five minutes after the class begins to restrict unauthorised entry.

“We close the meeting five minutes into the proceedings but if there are children who face network issues, they send a message to the teacher, who will then allow her in,” said Anjana Saha, the principal of Mahadevi Birla World Academy.

South Point is generating meeting accounts centrally instead of teachers doing so individually so that parents do not have access to teachers’ personal phone numbers.

“All our meeting links and passwords are shared through the school app. This way we can protect the privacy of our teachers. If parents have any queries, they can write to the school,” said Krishna Damani, trustee of South Point.

Saha said parents can write emails to the school but messages in WhatsApp groups should be sent only within the stipulated school hours and not beyond.

“Parents have to respect the boundaries of a classroom despite the class now having shifted to their homes,” the head of another school said.

The schools are using the video option for teachers to check whether any parent is logging in from a separate device using the same log-in ID and password.

“We noticed the number of participants was going up because parents were also logging in from a separate device. We had to make it mandatory for students to switch the camera on and keep the audio on mute, ' said Basanti Biswas, the principal of Calcutta Girls’ school.

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