School Spying Case is Settled (And Yet, This is Just the Beginning…)

In case you were wondering whatever happened in that school district outside of Philly where 2,300 students were issued laptops that the administration then used to spy on the students in their homes, here’s the denouement, as reported on the Law & Disorder website:

The school district accused of spying on students at home via laptop webcam has agreed to settle two student lawsuits for a total of $610,000. The Lower Merion School District board of directors released a statement Tuesday morning, saying that it decided to settle in order to move on and “protect the interests of our taxpayers,” even if that meant not being able to share its own side of the story.

The webcam issue first came to light in February whenhigh school student Blake J. Robbins was disciplined by his assistant principal for engaging in “improper behavior” while at home—the evidence for which was apparently a photograph from the built-in webcam on his school-issued laptop. Once the Robbins family filed its class-action lawsuit against the district, the FBI began investigating the case as well to see whether the school had broken any federal wiretap laws.

Following a court order to preserve the webcam images from the district’s 2,300 student-issued laptops, the Robbins’ updated their claims, saying that the school took more than 400 photos of Blake in his room (some while he was “partially undressed”). Additionally, they said the school took “thousands” more pictures of other students in their homes, or in some case screenshots of private IM conversations.

And guess what else? The onlookers called the students’ lives a “soap opera” that they LOVED WATCHING.

Incredible. But that’s the end of this particular case. Why do I have the feeling it won’t be the last? Could it because of things like THIS STORY:  Two districts in Texas are using RFID tags — the same technology used to track cattle  — to track students? Supposedly this will help with “security.”

Whose? — Lenore

School Uses Laptops to Spy on Kids: The Update. Really Weird Update.

Hi Folks! Just read this bizarre new wrinkle on TechDirt about the case of the Pennsylvania school that gave its 1800 students laptops and then used them to spy on the kids — 42 times! While the school claims it activated the cameras only when trying to track down a lost or stolen computer, nonetheless the original student we were talking about here was disciplined for selling or taking drugs. That’s an activity the kid did in his own home, as witnessed by a school administrator  via a secretly activated laptop.

And the administrator witnessed wrong! The drugs turned out to be Mike & Ike candies, says TechDirt! And now my worry is not just that the school was spying, and not just that it got it all wrong, but that someday kids WILL be spied on and WILL be disciplined for eating candy! Or, God forbid, homemade baked goods! (See below.) Aieeeee! — Lenore