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.