Monday, February 22, 2010

I Spy.



Here in our neck of the woods there is a story creating quite a buzz, not only locally but from what I can tell; nationally as well. You might or might not have heard about it by now.

Lower Merion is a school district just outside of Philly. Lower Merion High School is where Kobe Bryant (He of the LA Lakers) played ball, and it is, for all intents and purposes, a somewhat affluent part of our great state. They are so affluent, in fact, that they could afford to outfit everyone of their students with a brand new computer. And not just any computer; the fancy kind with built in cameras and the whole nine.

Well, it seems that the authorities from The Lower Merion School District might have been doing a little spying on their students with these cameras, and suburban parents being suburban parents, have literally made a federal case out of it. Yep, there is a class action lawsuit making its way through federal court as I type this.

"The suit alleges the remotely controlled covert cameras violate everything from the Fourth Amendment to wiretapping, electronic communications and computer fraud laws.

It was filed Tuesday on behalf of Harriton High student Blake J. Robbins and all Lower Merion students by Robbins' parents Michael and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley.
Named as defendants are the school district, the district's nine-member Board of Directors and Superintendent Christopher W. McGinley.


The Robbins seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as an end to the "spying," according to the 17-page complaint.

The family first learned of the embedded webcams on Nov. 11, when Harriton High's Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko reprimanded Blake Robbins for "improper behavior in his home," according to the lawsuit. Matsko cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam on the boy's school-issued laptop."

Oh ohh, "remotely controlled covert cameras" can't be good. If this is true the folks in charge at Lower Merion might be in deep you know what. There are just certain aspects of the Constitution that should not be messed with, and certain lines that should not be crossed. Our right to privacy is one of them. I understand that these are students, and teachers have a certain amount of responsibility when it comes to policing their behavior, but not when they are off school property in the privacy of their own homes. Apparently the Vice Principal let the cat out of the bag by telling Blake Robbins that she saw him popping pills in his room, and that he might be a.....gasp! Drug dealer. (Memo to suburban teacher: you do not want to accuse a suburban kid of being a drug dealer. Mommy and Daddy will sue.)

"Because the webcam can capture anything happening in the room where the laptop is, district personnel could illicitly observe plenty more than a student's online activity, the lawsuit alleges.

"Many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress," the lawsuit charges."


Now you all know me I have to play devil's advocate a little bit: What if the teacher saw Blake making a bomb and writing a note that he was going to blow up the school the next day? Would we object then? And what if everyone got got a lap-top signed a disclaimer saying that the school could use this camera to track their computers because some have been stolen in the past? Would we feel the same way? I am sure that this is one of the arguments that the school's defense team is preparing to make. Wait....

"The school district says it has only utilized the security features to track stolen or missing laptops.

But the Robbinses' attorney, Mark Haltzman, "It's absolutely not true that this was a lost or stolen laptop."

Oh ohh, they might have to go to Plan B. Especially in light of this:

" Meanwhile, the superintendent of schools, Dr. Christopher McGinley did say in a letter to families that "there was no explicit notification that the laptop contained the security software. This notice should have been given and we regret that was not done." [Story]

Oh Lawd! Can you say settlement boyz and girls? I swear the rich always get richer.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh lawdy, lawdy. I knew when the computer era was ushered in that it would only be a matter of time before big brother would be able to see everything.

Well, this should be interesting. That is, the amount of the settlement should be interesting.

I bet more suits will follow after this.

Lower Merion, hmmmm. Field, isn't that right next door to where you live? And isn't Lower Merion's average income status 'lower' than where you live? I thought so.

Smashed The Tiny Black Box said...

Yeah yeah, property taxes blah blah blah.

Why how in the hell does this school have computers for every student when most schools are facing transportation, teacher and heating/cooling cuts in their budget?

Excuse me for sounding like a crumdgeon, but I don't want to pay for Johnny or Sally's lap top. I understand the need for public education, but really, I'm not seeing good results with my potential employees who graduated less than five years ago. Meanwhile, property taxes keep on skyrocketing. More of the three r's and less spy wear. More teaching and less leeching from the unions and indifferent parents.

Hathor said...

Paying higher property taxes is a hell of lot cheaper than paying for private schools in this area.

anon,
Google it

finefroghair said...

the power of big brother
gets larger every day
spying on each other
in every single way

hundreds of students
only one of them used drugs
these laptops are worthless
if they're using them as bugs

laptops with cameras
they are nothing new
turn the damn thing off
they can not spy on you

rich kids are given laptops
poor kids don't get a dime
it's always the same old story
it happens all the time

now there is a lawsuit
who are they gonna sue
the outcome does not matter
the losers are me and you

Race Traitoress said...

No wonder teachers and schools get no respect. This is outrageous.

And no, I wouldn't like the school spying even if the kid was making a bomb. The ends do not justify the means.

Anonymous said...

Ummm...have you ever seen the policies of business or PA government about laptop use?
Sounds like drug-dealing suburban lad had to do some fancy lawyering to avoid the rap.
Please, before one whines about the unions...spend a few weeks teaching.

Mold

Pearl Snap Shirt said...

I remember when the crazy old man on the corner used to swear that the government was watching us through out TV's and listening to us through our phones. Now I'm wondering which one of us was crazy.

hearthesiren said...

i love the poetic comment. but yes, this is such a clear violation of privacy. the only way that the school could argue that the camera was utilized to discover stolen laptops would be if they only viewed footage AFTER a student reported it stolen. the issue here is the voyeuristic aspect of the case. yes the teacher viewed johnny "popping pills" but what stops the teacher from watching johnny masturbate on the internet or when johnny has sex with his high school girlfriend?! this is completely disgusting and reprehensible. and im not just saying this because i had to get a restraining order on a peeping tom. ever since ive been in law school ive been WISHING a tort would happen to me. these kids are going to be RICH.

gross.

StillaPanther2 said...

Brother Field ... the school district can afford to give each child a computer. That's a good thing. Most school districts are supported by the taxpayers of that district. If this district have houses instead of apartments...families instead of "I am a single mother"... employed instead of the unemployed...their opportunity to have these needed tools are in the school. Now about the security issue...count the number of times you hear the phrase"we got to keep you safe" then you will realize if I am tasked to keep YOU safe, I must know what you are doing at all times. In the ice age--I was mandated by school to read a book by some dude named George Orwill>>(well) or something. I thought that day- he had looked in the future= would never come. Being "out the mix" now, I hear the word 'safe' all day long on the tube. I agree with you on the legal exercise...BUT,,,the horse is out the barn.

Bob said...

The laptops ae loans. That's a good idea in theory. The Feds are investigating it now. The school administrators at first tried to confuse the issue by calling them "tracking devices." They have no defense.

College Term Papers said...

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agape2010 said...

Yep...they gottta sue. Too many voilations of privacy.

I had already hear the story. It is national. And it is important to the growth and develpoment of childre. They should not be taught to spy...outside of legal spying arenas (FBI, CIA, NAVY SEALS, GREEN BERETS, etc)

Peace.
~agape2010~

Mos_Native said...

So they just sit there and watch the kids in their bedrooms?

Sick.

I am not Star Jones said...

America becomes creepier every single day.

Smashed The Tiny Black Box said...

MOLDY,

I have taught 13 year olds, thank you very much. I pay property taxes on more than one property I own. More importantly, I'm a parent. I have a right to demand that a broken system changes. I don't care about teacher sensibilities if they do not perform and/or abuse kids.

You see, the children and their safety come before some 40 year old bitter toxic harpie who should have been shit canned years ago. I'm more concerned about the kid who was spied on than a grossly overpaid administrator who doesn't have the behavior modification skills required to NOT RESORT TO VIOLATING CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. This guy might have been getting off on watching Johnny and Sally change for all we know.

Thanks to the NEA, dead weights who harm our kids on society's dime are still there, consequence free. THE UNIONS ARE AIDING THE DEMISE OF U.S. PUBLIC EDUCATION, MOLDY. Pick up a newspaper or travel abroad and the truth is undeniable

Do you even have a school aged kid or pay property taxes? If yes than your loyalties should be to the kid.

agape2010 said...

@ FN:

OK - I know I make typos - but really...that many? I'm blaming it on your blog...hahaha!

Will you PUH LEASE blog about that fat, dope fiend Limbaugh and the "reparations" he thinks is in the health care bill.

Aint enough reparations in the world for us when it comes to enslavement.


Peace.
~agape2010~

Anonymous said...

agape2010 "Will you PUH LEASE blog about that fat, dope fiend Limbaugh and the "reparations" he thinks is in the health care bill."

Rush is usually right. That is, he doesn't exaggerate, he calls a spade a spade. No pun intended.

Agape, where does that name come from?

field negro said...

I remember when the crazy old man on the corner used to swear that the government was watching us through out TV's and listening to us through our phones. Now I'm wondering which one of us was crazy."

LOL! Pearl Snap, do you think we landed ont he moon?

I think Mold is even more cynical than I am. :)

agape, we don't worry about typos on this site. The host is the biggest offender.

I haven't heard the latest Rush story. But I see the VP is in the hospital for heart issues again........no comment.

Damn finefroghair, you are off the hook with your poems. You should seriously have a book deal.

So they just sit there and watch the kids in their bedrooms?

Sick."

Mos_Native, for their sake I hope not, or as I said in the post, they are in deep do do.

"--I was mandated by school to read a book by some dude named George Orwill>>(well) or something. I thought that day- he had looked in the future= would never come. Being "out the mix" now, I hear the word 'safe' all day long on the tube. I agree with you on the legal exercise...BUT,,,the horse is out the barn."

Brother Panther, I know that this case seems cut and dry to most folks, but as hearthesiren will attest,this area of law is still evolving.

Frank Drackman said...

Yet another reason I'm happy to pay $40K a year to send my daughters to private school...

Hathor said...

It is a lame excuse for use of the camera. Just how would they know where the computer was by looking at the inside of a house or building? The GPS device on board would locate the computer and the tracking software would let them know which web sites they visit.

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]The suit alleges the remotely controlled covert cameras violate everything from the Fourth Amendment to wiretapping, electronic communications and computer fraud laws.[/quote]

That damned GEORGE BUSH!!!!!
The example starts at the top and flows down hill. WE allowed Bush to WIRE TAP and he got away with it. NOW the underlings in certain conservative areas think that they are "Karl Rove".

I knew that in listening to the "Urban Radio Report" yesterday on "XM The Power" that when they flipped out over the Obama Administration refusal to prosecute John Yu and the other Bush lawyer who approved TORTURE that the Urban Radio Report was on to something. They were correct. I felt it in my soul!

We can't allow these "Little Eichmann's to get away with this. They'll monitor the Macbooks today and the Zunes and iPods tomorrow. Imagine everyone with Hip Hop music on their iTunes account being arrested for sedition.

Lead the way Filled Negro. I am behind you on this one. You don't even need to watch your back.

Antonio said...

What if the teacher saw Blake making a bomb and writing a note that he was going to blow up the school the next day? Would we object then?

Honestly, what are the odds that would even happen? Would violating the privacy of hundreds of students just to catch one be worth it? And what if he wanted to blow shit up in his backyard and had no intention of hurting anyone?

And what if everyone got got a lap-top signed a disclaimer saying that the school could use this camera to track their computers because some have been stolen in the past? Would we feel the same way?

If they used GPS or something it wouldn't be a big deal. But spying through a camera, c'mon.

Anonymous said...

Are you really saying this wouldn't be opposed by parents in black schools? Shame.

Anonymous said...

And if they sue, and win, doesn't that create case law for everyone at every school? Why slam the parents? A robust response protects everyone. They are the reason we even know about this.

Don said...

Memo to suburban teacher you do not want to accuse a suburban kid of being a drug dealer.

Too funny.


What in the world was Lower Merion thinking? I am sure they knew this would cause an outrage amongst parents and students and Jesse and Al. You have got to be kidding me?

In a day and age where teachers are dating the students and sex offenders are raping and killing children every day it appears ... what would possess The Lower Merion School District to spy on its students? Then, have the nerves to inform a student?

I have to believe that even a halfway decent lawyer will eat this up in court.

A Person of Interest said...

Field said:

"Oh Lawd! Can you say settlement boyz and girls? I swear the rich always get richer."

Yes, the rich will get richer, the people responsible for this will be protected by the NEA, and probably get promoted, to boot.

Hope those pervs enjoyed watching poor little Johnny spanking his monkey, or little LaShonda playing with the little man in the boat.

La♥audiobooks said...

This is outrageous, I'm in utter disbelief. it's invasion of privacy at the very least, it's bigger than that. As a parent/student I would lose sleep over this. People don't realize how much emotional damage this may have caused people. Even dormant web cams creep me out, I have always turned them upward to the roof, even when the computer is off. Couple times I have even taped my own laptop cam on the top.

Several times I have made the blind mistake of crossing the room naked behind my daughter not realizing she was on the cam with friends. I've personally learned the hard way in situations like this. These people need to be sued!

Now, for the only devil advocate question I have - What if this had happened to students in a predominantly black school in a poor urban area instead? It would be interesting to see how many people, including some of those same parents in the subs might be the ones to actually utter... "those people should be grateful they got a computer to take home in the first place".


"Oh Lawd! Can you say settlement boyz and girls? I swear the rich always get richer."

No that is the phenomenal truth. Damn. :)

Thrasher said...

Yawn..This is a nothing tale with overkill overtures...The same nonsense was floating around when phones and tv's became house hold items..

I am so tired of Black folks concerning themselves about the empty issues of the chatter class and the digital age...

Truth is even when Black folks are eye witnesses to crimes and even when the Rodney King tape was shown in court justice did not take place!!

This false notion that the government gives a fuck about what goes on in our homes is nonsense..

Even when the information is given to the government( Think the XMAS bomber) our government did nothing!!

Anonymous said...

Now, for the only devil advocate question I have - What if this had happened to students in a predominantly black school in a poor urban area instead? It would be interesting to see how many people, including some of those same parents in the subs might be the ones to actually utter... "those people should be grateful they got a computer to take home in the first place".

Are you shitting me? The whole post seems to be why are they (whitey) complaining, they got free computers!

Parents everywhere--white, black, purple, have kids in schools that are NOT getting free computers!

field negro said...

Question:What is a "black school"?And anon.12:33,could you please show me in the post where I say what you allege?

Unless suburban is a new code word for white I must be missing something.:)

Mimi Rothschild said...

This is just a perfect example of the arrogance with which the majority of the school districts in the country operate. And why there are over 2 million and counting people choosing to homeschool their children. Schools cannot be trusted. Schools have other agendas. The least of which is the education of our children.

Mimi Rothschild
CEO, Learning By Grace, Inc.
Educational Technologist and Lower Merion Taxpayer

Race Traitoress said...

@Constructive Feedback

You nailed it. I agree 100%.

Anonymous said...

Homeskooled? Ever wonder why the homeskoolers decline to track certain events...like their 'teechers' having relations with the students?

Smashed...you may have taught Sunday School...but your words declare that you have not spend the time in the classroom needed to understand the teachers...or their desire to remain unionized.

Mold

alicia banks said...

rt:

teachers get no respect not because they spy...most do not!

they get no respect because they are perpetual scapegoats for toxic parents/horrid kids/ruthless admin/spineless politicos etc...

fyi

http://aliciabanks.vox.com/library/post/the-impending-doom-of-a-nation---our-horrid-schools.html?_c=feed-atom

http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/fea/20030407/202/339

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3617/is_200804/ai_n25502225/

Lancaster said...

mark my words - lawsuit is a cheap bid for publicity - when the facts come out, johnnie could well be a drug dealer (and a famous one), and the school might in fact have never turned on the camera in question, and the laptop was in fact reported stolen...

the whole presumptino of innocence goes out the window when people make really really extreme charges

Constructive Feedback said...

HEY FILLED NEGRO!!!!

Why don't you and other Social Justice advocates depart Philly for Lower Marion Township and hand out piece of MASKING TAPE for all students to put over their WEB CAMS?

When they want to use video with their friends have them pull out their iPhone instead of the school computer.

Problem solved!! You will win fans among the White Suburbanites. They may even invite you to their Pool Party.

There is a Staples or Office Depot right off of Lancaster Avenue, just before you get to Villanova.

Why make it more difficult than it actually is?

field negro said...

"Problem solved!! You will win fans among the White Suburbanites. They may even invite you to their Pool Party."

Don't worry CF, I would invite you along as well. We wouldn't want you missing out on being around your favorite people. :)

Anonymous said...

Just to let people know, the boy was popping "Mike and Ike' candies - if you're up a bit in age, you'll remember them.

naomi

Race Traitoress said...

@ab

You're right, of course--teachers are often scapegoats; as I teacher, I've experienced this first hand.

But the moment a teacher or school does something underhanded, like this (or worse), it serves to reinforce the lack of trust and respect all teachers receive and it only exacerbates the problem--gives those so inclined an excuse to continue to treat teachers poorly.

alicia banks said...

rt:

ditto

this is a rare and costly case...

just watch the unfair generic blame

http://aliciabanks.vox.com/library/link/6a0123ddb39306860b0123f1a96d2d860f.html

Sarge said...

So, now we're not "citizens" (hell, the very notion of 'civitas' got shit-canned in the 1960s)but suspects. "We" can't be trusted.

My father was a counter intelligence officer in the army (I used to tell him I did so poorly in school because he was so good at his job. Dad was unamused.) and since I was a rather shakey 'murkin, he would admonish me with slogans about why life in "murka was so much better.
"THEY" did things like watch the populace, deny them freedom. Not US!
Since 1973 I've watched things change to where to a police state that was said to be "impossible" in this country.

People should heed the words of Cardinal Richelieu, the real one, who was the father of the French secret service.
He stated that he could take the most king-loving, patriotic Frenchman in the realm, and in six sentences of normal conversation have enough evidence to hang him for treason.

It isn't a case of having "nothing to hide", it's what the auditor wants, and when he wants it.
Yes, it is an intrusion, and it is very worrying.

About the crazy old man on the corner, the one having the conversation with himself...maybe in another town, somewhere, there's an old derelict having a similar conversation, but answering the other bum!

You do wonder...had a dream a while back that Oprah Winfrey somehow wound up in 'toon town' and for some reason they made me show her around the place, and for some reason she was very interested in our drainage systems.
I could just see her come down stairs that same morning, looking pensive. Asked if she's all right,
"Had this odd dream. I wound up in this total DUMP of a town in Pennsylvania some how, and they had this old white guy giving me a tour of the place. And...don't ask me why...for some reason I was reallyconcerned about their plumbing and sewerage systems. (dismissive head shake and hand flutter.

Hey...what if...?

Anonymous said...

"Yet another reason I'm happy to pay $40K a year to send my daughters to private school..."

I didn't know incarcerated convicts made that much in the system. Normally they would struggle just to have enough in their commissary for a few snacks, especially with wages like $2-$3/hr.

Robert M said...

this school district is going to get off lightly. It was stupid for the vice president to even be able to access the pictures through the school's system; not to have the system only in the hands of the security is beyond stupid. The parents sign a letter authorizing their child's use and a set of standards in order to use it. These standards are no different than those used by corporations or the government. If you use their computers and servers you are subject to their rules.

I suspect that we'll she a brief from the government. The Patriot Act gives authorities too much leeway. Any government authority forced to cut back is a threat to this law.

field negro said...

"Yet another reason I'm happy to pay $40K a year to send my daughters to private school..."

I didn't know incarcerated convicts made that much in the system. Normally they would struggle just to have enough in their commissary for a few snacks, especially with wages like $2-$3/hr."

))))LOL(((Frank, you deserved that. :)

cactusrose said...

America is just too toxic, is there ever any peace? anywhere?

Stankoniforous 0ne said...

Real quick, we have no right to privacy. We only have a right against an "unreasonable" search and seizure.

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