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By Rylee Wilson February 8, 2022

Yes, Iowa Republican’s bill would put cameras in classrooms

If Your Time is short

  • A bill introduced by Iowa Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, proposes putting cameras in public school classrooms, with exceptions for physical education and special education classrooms. 
  • The bill generated national media attention, including from NBC news, The Hill, Mother Jones and others. 
  • Similar bills have been introduced in other states, including Florida. 

Editor's note, Feb. 10: A subcommittee on the bill to install cameras in Iowa classrooms did not meet as scheduled on Feb. 9, and the subcommittee leader said the bill will not move forward. We rate claims based on what is known at the time, so the rating remains unchanged. 

bill introduced by an Iowa state Rep. Norlin Mommsen that would install cameras in public school classrooms would allow parents to watch a livestream of their child’s class. The move has garnered attention outside of the Hawkeye State, in stories by several national media outlets and commentary from pundits. 

On Feb. 2, left-leaning podcaster Brian Tyler Cohen, host of the popular podcast No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen, tweeted that the bill would put government-installed cameras in every classroom.

Content in public schools has been a hot-button issue in the Iowa Legislature this session. On Feb. 3, Iowa Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, introduced a bill that would allow parents to sue teachers for distributing what they deem obscene material to students. 

Chapman had previously proposed charging educators with felonies for distributing obscene material. 

What Mommsen’s bill says

Cohen is correct about proposed cameras in Iowa’s classrooms, except that language in Mommsen’s bill, HF2177, provides narrow exceptions to the cameras for gym class and special education classrooms. 

Cohen told Politifact Iowa the source for the tweet was an NBC News story

Cohen also linked to an NBC story about a similar bill proposed in Florida, which teachers called spying. 

"This is very clearly a way for conservative lawmakers to censor educators so that they’ll avoid teaching topics that could be considered politically inconvenient for Republicans. It’s political interference in education. I think it’s extremely fair to call this practice a way to spy on teachers in their classrooms for the sole purpose of chilling speech/lesson plans/education for fear of punishment," Cohen wrote in a message to Politifact. 

Mommsen told Politifact Iowa those who think the intent of his bill is to spy on teachers are incorrect.  

"What I’m trying to do is build a stronger bond between parents and teachers and the children’s education," Mommsen said. "I think that’s been missing." 

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Mommsen said the cameras also could provide a record of what happens in the classroom for teachers facing harassment. 

"I’ve had teachers call me, I’ve had parents of teachers call me talking about the abuse they take in the classroom," Mommsen said. "And they see this as a way to protect themselves." 

In Maryland, Democratic lawmakers have proposed installing cameras, though without audio and live streaming, in special education classrooms to provide evidence in case of complaints of abuse from teachers. 

Texas, West Virginia and Louisiana have similar laws on the books as the one proposed in Maryland for special education classrooms. A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature would not allow for camera footage to be livestreamed. 

As of Feb.7, several associations representing Iowa teachers had declared their opposition to the bill through lobbyists, including the Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa, Professional Educators of Iowa, the Iowa State Education Association, Rural School Advocates of Iowa, Iowa Safe Schools, and the Urban Education Network of Iowa. 

As of Feb. 7, no groups had registered lobbyist declarations in favor of the bill. 

Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek said in a prepared statement issued Feb. 3, that the bill would further insult public school educators. "To suggest that precious school resources be spent on live streaming equipment and additional bandwidth so that anyone can observe a classroom is misguided and dangerous," Beranek said. 

The bill proposes that state funding pay for the cameras. 

Mommsen told Politifact Iowa that he envisions the livestream taking place over a platform like Zoom, that could be secured so only parents could access it. 

Our ruling

Cohen is correct in saying Mommsen’s bill would put cameras in classrooms, live streaming school activities for parents who want to know what’s happening in their child’s classroom. 

The bill would not put cameras in every classroom. It leaves some exceptions for physical education and special education rooms. And, the bill would allow viewing all day during class time, not "at all times of the day," as the statement could be interpreted as saying if taken out of the context Cohen provides in the tweet. 

But on a whole, Cohen is correct about the purpose of the bill. 

We rate Cohen’s claim as True. 

Our Sources

Iowa House File 2177 

Brian Tyler Cohen tweet, Feb. 2, 2022 

Twitter Direct Message Exchange, @briantylercohen, Feb. 7, 2022 

Phone interview with Rep. Norlin Mommsen, Feb. 7, 2022 

NBC News, "Iowa bill would require cameras in public school classrooms," by Adam Edelman, Feb. 3, 2022

NBC Miami, "Cameras in Classrooms Bill Moving Through State House," by Ari Odzer, Jan. 20, 2022 

Iowa State Education Association tweet, Feb. 3, 2022

Des Moines Register, "Iowa parents could sue schools over ‘obscene’ books in Sen. Jake Chapman’s bill," by Stephen Gruber-Miller and Ian Richardson, Feb. 3, 2022

Maryland Matters, "Bill Would Require Cameras in Special Education Classrooms to Capture Possible Abuse," by Elizabeth Shwe, Feb. 5, 2022

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More by Rylee Wilson

Yes, Iowa Republican’s bill would put cameras in classrooms

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