Suit: School-issued laptops used to spy on kids on Main Line
Lower Merion School District officials used school-issued laptop computers to illegally spy on students, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.
The suit, filed Tuesday, says unnamed school officials at Harriton High School in Rosemont remotely activated the webcam on a student's computer last year because the district believed he "was engaged in improper behavior in his home."
An assistant principal at Harriton confronted the student for "improper behavior" on Nov. 11 and cited a photograph taken by the webcam as evidence.
The district has issued school-owned laptops to 2,290 high school students, starting last school year at Harriton, in an effort to promote more "engaged and active learning and enhanced student achievement," superintendent Christopher W. McGinley said in a message on the district website.
McGinley and school board president David Ebby did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement on its website, the district said that "The laptops do contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops. This feature has been deactivated effective today." In a later statement, the district said: "Upon a report of a suspected lost, stolen or missing laptop, the feature was activated by the District's security and technology departments. The tracking-security feature was limited to taking a still image of the operator and the operator's screen. This feature has only been used for the limited purpose of locating a lost, stolen or missing laptop. The District has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever."
Hmmm . . . . I'll bet that the district did "tell" everybody about the feature, but they sure as hell never mentioned that it could be used to monitor them in their own home.
I'd also be less than shocked if some district staff, perhaps from genuine concern, tried to use the feature to check on a student at home -- but to me that would call for disciplining/firing the staff involved, not a class action lawsuit.
PS -- if your district offers free laptops say, "no thatnks".