February 19, 2010 in Nation/World

Suit claims school used webcams to spy on kids

Maryclaire Dale Associated Press
 

PHILADELPHIA – A suburban Philadelphia school district used the webcams in school-issued laptops to spy on students at home, potentially catching them and their families in compromising situations, a family claims in a federal lawsuit.

Lower Merion School District officials said the laptops “contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops,” and that the feature was deactivated Thursday.

The school district can activate the webcams without students’ knowledge or permission, the suit said. Plaintiffs Michael and Holly Robbins suspect the cameras captured students and family members as they undressed and in other embarrassing situations, according to the suit.

A school district statement released late Thursday said the tracking feature would not be reactivated “without express written notification to all students and families.”

The Robbinses said they learned of the alleged webcam images when Lindy Matsko, an assistant principal at Harriton High School, told their son Blake that school officials thought he had engaged in improper behavior at home. The behavior was not specified in the suit.

“(Matsko) cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the school district,” the suit states. Matsko later confirmed to Michael Robbins that the school had the ability to activate the webcams remotely, according to the suit.

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