Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

Will World War 3 Be Prevented Because of Global Interdependence?

The Injustice of Sexism

NASA Can Get Humans to Mars by 2033 (Without a Budget Increase!)

Where does intelligence come from?

8th Beyond Humanism Conference

The Universal Balance of Gravity and Dark Energy Predicts Accelerated Expansion

ieet books

Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
John G Messerly


instamatic on 'NASA Can Get Humans to Mars by 2033 (Without a Budget Increase!)' (May 26, 2016)

almostvoid on 'Where does intelligence come from?' (May 26, 2016)

almostvoid on 'The Future of PR in Emotionally Intelligent Technology' (May 25, 2016)

almostvoid on 'Rituals Improve Life According to Ancient Chinese Philosophers' (May 25, 2016)

almostvoid on 'Optimize Brain Health by Balancing Social Life with Downtime' (May 23, 2016)

instamatic on 'Faithfulness--The Key to Living in the Zone' (May 22, 2016)

R Wordsworth Holt on 'These Are the Most Serious Catastrophic Threats Faced by Humanity' (May 22, 2016)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Ethicists Generally Agree: The Pro-Life Arguments Are Worthless
May 17, 2016
(4289) Hits
(10) Comments

Artificial Intelligence in the UK: Risks and Rewards
May 12, 2016
(3326) Hits
(0) Comments

Nicotine Gum for Depression and Anxiety
May 5, 2016
(3030) Hits
(0) Comments

3D Virtual Reality Is the Best Storytelling Technology We’ve Ever Had
May 5, 2016
(2845) Hits
(1) Comments

IEET > Rights > Privacy > Life > Innovation > Health > Vision > Futurism > Contributors > Carol Lloyd

Print Email permalink (0) Comments (5212) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Surveillance parenting

Carol Lloyd
By Carol Lloyd

Posted: May 5, 2012

How many times have parents worried that something deeply wrong was going on in their child’s school, but didn’t have the intel to know for sure? Last week’s story of a father who slipped an audio recorder into the pocket of his son, then posted excerpts of the recordings of the classroom on YouTube, has – for better or for worse – given parents everywhere a new strategy for finding out exactly what is happening at their child’s school.  

Call it the age of surveillance parenting.

The online saga began when Stuart Chaifetz, a former school board candidate of Cherry Hill District in New Jersey, received reports from his child’s school that his 10-year-old son Akian, who is in a self-contained class for children diagnosed with autism, was acting out in class – hitting teachers and throwing things. Chaifetz said his son had no previous history of violence or misbehavior and so the information was especially troubling. 

His son, who speaks but has difficulty communicating, could not answer questions about the class that has both a Special Ed teacher and two or three aides.  So on February 17, he “wired” his son and was shocked to hear the results:  adults talking about getting drunk in front of the children, mocking his son, telling his son to “shut his mouth,” and in one instance, calling him a “bastard.” 

He shared the recording with the Cherry Hill District officials, and they soon issued a statement that those involved no longer worked for the district. But Chaifetz believed otherwise – that the teacher identified as Kelly Altenburg - remained employed with another school in the district. So he went public with his recording, [see video below] demanding the aide and teacher involved come forward with a public apology.

The 17-minute video of a fuming Chaifetz narrating excerpts of the audio recording went viral with 3.7 million views (and counting), hundreds of news reports and an outpouring of support from angry parents with similar stories to tell.  The recording captures pretty horrific moments including one where as Akian whimpers in the background, one of the adults yell: “Go ahead and scream, because guess what? You are going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.” 

Is secret audio the new nanny cam?

How this shaming and naming game will play out is hard to say. Secret audio recordings are certainly not legal in every state. Laws about tape recording others vary radically - with states like California and Michigan not allowing much in the way of citizen surveillance and states like Vermont not even prohibiting hidden cameras! Whatever the law, this case has obviously captured the imaginations of thousands of parents who feel helpless about their child’s schooling. Chaifetz told the Huffington Post that since he posted his video many “desperate” parents contacted him “looking for help on how to wire” their children. 

Surreptitious audio recordings have been used in numerous cases in special ed classrooms and Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association told the Huffington Post that “If a parent has any reason at all to suggest a child is being abused or mistreated, I strongly recommend [it].”  Indeed, an ACLU report a few years back found that students with disabilities are at special risk for being abused by teachers, a fact that no doubt has made many parents of children in special ed programs particularly vigilant.

But if we learned anything from the movie “Bully,” which captured unbelievable acts of bullying by kids (and absurd denials from educators), it’s that sometimes a hidden camera or recorder is also useful for typical kids – kids who are too afraid to speak up, or more often, kids whom nobody believes.

We send our children to school every day, trusting they will be safe, that the adults charged with their care will not abuse their power. Until recently, parents had little to go on but the “he said/she said” of teachers and kids. Classroom cams (like the kind they have in some preschools) offer a “brave new world” kind of solution with its own chilling effects, but when faced with this case, I can’t help but wonder, would it be so bad if every school assumes that  “big parent” just may be watching?

Image (above): Stuart and Akian Chaifetz

Viral YouTube Video (below)



Carol Lloyd is the Executive Editor for Previously she was an award-winning columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and education editor at Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, This American Life radio show,, The Los Angeles Times, and the SF Weekly, and she's been featured on NPR's Talk of the Nation, PRI's The World and KQED's Forum and To the Best of Our Knowledge. Her bestselling book "Creating a Life Worth Living" was published in 1997 by Harper Collins.
Print Email permalink (0) Comments (5213) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: In Praise of Soft Rationality and Rational Spirituality

Previous entry: IEET Readers Want to Eliminate Sleep


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-428-1837

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @