Accused in a lawsuit of spying on students via Webcams, the Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania concedes that what it described as a substantial number of photos of students were taken. The school system is being sued by the family of a high school student who has accused the district of taking photos of him in his home.
A Pennsylvania school district
accused of spying on students with Webcams on school-issued laptops has
conceded that a "substantial number" of photos have turned up in an
investigation of the situation.
Merion School District has been at the center
of a legal battle over the
issue since the parents of Harriton High
School student Blake Robbins filed a lawsuit
against the school system in February. The family accused the district of using
the Webcam on a school-issued Apple MacBook to take pictures of the student in
The district, which had gave computers to the high school students as
part of a technology initiative, outfitted the machines with management
software called LANrev that could be used to remotely activate the machines'
Webcams. The district has characterized the software as a
security-tracking feature intended to recover
and reported that the software had been used 42 times for that
purpose as of Feb. 19.
In a statement
issued April 16,
however, School Board President David Ebby said
"a substantial number of Webcam photos have been recovered in the
Ebby said, "We have proposed a process to Judge DuBois whereby each
family of a student whose image appears in any such photos will be notified and
given the opportunity to view such photographs. Our counsel proposed that Chief
Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter handle that process. While our counsel has not
yet met with Judge Rueter, Judge DuBois has agreed that such a process makes
sense. We hope to start that process shortly. During that process the privacy
of all students will be strongly protected.
"Also, the plaintiffs' motion suggests that the LANrev tracking feature
may have been used for the purposes of 'spying' on students. While we deeply
regret the mistakes and misguided actions that have led us to this situation,
at this late stage of the investigation we are not aware of any evidence that
District employees used any LANrev Webcam photographs or screenshots for such inappropriate
purposes. Please also be reminded that we continue to fully cooperate and
provide transparency to the United States Attorney's office in its
investigation of the matter. To the extent there is any evidence of
inappropriate conduct, it will be disclosed in the findings of the current
Ebby's comments came a day after an attorney for the Robbins
family filed a motion in federal court stating that the school system had
captured "thousands of images of Webcam pictures and screen shots,"
including photos of students, their Web activity and instant message
The district reportedly plans to release the results of its own
investigation within a few weeks.