A Zoom “strike,” in which parents withdrew their children from distance-learning, swept across California the week of Sept. 28 to Oct. 2. It called for in-person classes to fully resume, as many schools across the state continue distance-learning or only short periods of in-person teaching.
Joseph Chang of Kern County was one of the parents who “Zoomed out.” He recently posted a photo on social media of his second-grade daughter crying in front of the computer, and it went viral.
“I had literally people around the entire country and around the world reaching out to me,” Chang told The Epoch Times.
His daughter’s teacher was herself on the verge of crying due to difficulties with the online-class format, and she ended the class early.
“Children are crying because they can see their teacher, but can’t hear her, or they can hear their classmates, but not see them,” Chang said. “Or they raise their hands, but they can’t get called because the teachers can’t see them.”
He said having no class “would be neutral. This isn’t even neutral. This is causing emotional trauma to our children.”
One of Joseph Chang’s five daughters cries due to frustrations with the online format of her second-grade class, in Kern County, Calif. (Courtesy of Joseph Chang)
The Zoom Out campaign is organized by the group Reopen California Schools.
Syndie Ly, spokesperson for Reopen California Schools, told The Epoch Times: “Parents are just frustrated. … We’ve written to the Board of Education, we’ve written to our superintendent, we’ve had rallies, we’ve done all these things. What can we do?
“We came up with the Zoom idea. I know that it’s more drastic. … We have done everything that we can, and we’re still not open. We need something to take a stronger stance.”
Ly encouraged parents to still request homework from their childrens’ teachers so they don’t fall behind. But the parents did let the schools know why they withdrew their children from the online classes.
Ly has four boys, all of whom attend school in the Tustin Unified School District in Tustin.
Her oldest, a junior in high school, is taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes. “His AP class is reduced to two days a week. You can’t take a high-level, challenging class and be reduced to two days a week and then expect to pass the AP exam,” Ly said.
Her other son, in middle school, has said he feels depressed because of being separated from his friends.
Her twins in elementary school were attending in-person class two hours per day, because the students were divided into shifts to minimize the number of students at school.
She felt it wasn’t enough, and transferred them to a private school. Sept. 29 was their first day. “They were so happy because … [it was] their first day back,” Ly said.
Mari Keaton is a mother of three, with her oldest in private school and her other two in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which mainly serves Newport Beach and Costa Mesa.
One of her children has special needs, and thus has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). But his time with his IEP teacher has been limited to about 20 minutes per day.
“That’s all he gets. And so, my son has struggled since March, and it has taken us to have to pay a private tutor to come in,” Keaton told The Epoch Times.
“He needs his special classes,” she said. “Not every child is made out to be homeschooled. They need to physically be in a classroom.”
Her 6-year-old daughter attends class for about two hours per day. The children sit at desks surrounded by partitions and are not allowed to leave their desks except to go to the bathroom.
“I don’t feel that’s enough,” Keaton said of the shortened class times. “It’s almost like us parents don’t have any right to say how we want things to be.”
Heather Manning of Bakersfield, California, is a kindergarten teacher and mother of four.
She said that, even in person, it’s hard to hold her kindergarteners’ attention for longer than 10 minutes. Now she’s trying to do it remotely.
Some of her students aren’t supervised by a parent during their class sessions. “You’re taking time away from your class … they have to go find a brother or sister … to help them,” Manning told The Epoch Times.
“I’ve just seen them ask me all the time when they’re going to be able to come to my classroom, when are they able to see me, when are they going to be able to see the playground,” Manning said.
She pays a tutor to be with her own children while she’s working.
Ly said some counties in California with the highest level of participation in the Zoom Out were Kern, San Diego, and Sacramento.
The California Teachers Association (CTA) has expressed concern over reopening schools, saying teachers are eager open safely but that the CTA does not feel it is safe yet in many cases to do so.
CTA President E. Toby Boyd said in a Sept. 16 letter he sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, “Our concern for the safety and welfare of students and staff has been heightened by the fact that school doors are opening, or preparing to open, across the state through small cohorts, waivers, and as counties advance through the risk levels without basic testing plans and programs in place for students and educators.”