Story at a glance
- A California middle school teacher who faced intense backlash after saying she “totally stalked” her students’ online activity to recruit members for a LGBTQ+ club said she did not set out to surveil the students.
- The teacher, Lori Caldeira, said her comments were made “tongue in cheek,” and should not have been taken so seriously. She added that she only used approved software to monitor students’ activity.
- Caldeira and her colleague, Kelly Baraki, have been put on administrative leave and their LGBTQ+ club has been suspended. They say they worry about the well-being of the club’s members, who are often unable to talk about their sexuality or gender identity at home.
A California middle school teacher who admitted she “totally stalked” her students online to recruit members for her LGBTQ+ club has said her comments should not have been taken as seriously as they were, and she did not set out to intentionally surveil the students.
At a California Teachers Association conference last month, middle school teachers Lori Caldeira and Kelly Baraki led a workshop addressing the challenges of running LGBTQ+ clubs in communities with conservative parents.
Caldeira and Baraki said they frequently struggle with declining membership within their Buena Vista Middle School LGBTQ+ club “You Be You,” and have turned to creative recruitment tactics to boost their numbers, including tracking what their students are doing online.
“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing schoolwork,” Caldeira said at the conference, according to an audio recording of her comments obtained by a reporter.
“One of them was Googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus,” she said.
Caldeira’s comments once they were published ignited a firestorm of protest from angered parents. Both Caldeira and Baraki have been put on administrative leave pending an internal investigation and their club has been suspended.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle this week, Caldeira said her comments were made “tongue in cheek” and should not have been taken as seriously as they were.
She added that she and Baraki did not set out to intentionally surveil students and were only using approved GoGuardian tracking software, which saw widespread adoption by schools during the shift to remote learning.
The software allows teachers to view their students’ screens while class is in session to keep them safer online, according to GoGuardian’s website.
Caldeira and Baraki said they worried about the well-being of the club’s members now that it has been suspended. The pair said some of the club’s members were not comfortable talking about their sexuality or gender identity at home, and You Be You offered a critical outlet for expression.
“Can you imagine? Seriously, we have kids in our club right now who are out at school, (but) they’re not out at home. The only two teachers that they have ever spoken to have been taken away,” Caldeira said.
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