A student's parents have sued a Pennsylvania school district, claiming the district used a Webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their son. The district says it has now disabled the feature that allowed it to turn on the Webcam remotely.
A Pennsylvania couple has
accused the local school district of spying on their son by means of a Webcam
on a school-issued laptop.
Michael Robbins and Holly Robbins of Penn Valley,
Penn., filed a lawsuit
(PDF) Feb. 11 in
U.S. District Court against the Lower
Merion School District,
in Ardmore, Penn.
The complaint, which the couple filed on behalf of their minor son, Blake
Robbins, alleges that the school district invaded students' privacy.
According to the suit, the district issued laptops to high school students
as part of a technology initiative, and did not notify families the
laptops were equipped with Webcams that could be turned on remotely. The family
alleged in the suit they did not learn of the capability until school officials
accused Blake Robbins of "improper behavior in his home" and cited as
evidence a photograph from the Webcam embedded in the laptop.
"As the laptops at issue were routinely used by students and family
members while at home, it is believed and therefore averred that 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, various stages or dress or undress," the complaint
In response to the suit, the school
district posted a statement
on its Website from the school superintendent
declaring that the district is "dedicated to protecting and promoting
student privacy" and that the ability to turn on the Webcams remotely was
intended as a security feature.
"Laptops are a frequent target for theft in schools and off school
property," Superintendent Christopher McGinley wrote. "The security
feature was installed to help locate a laptop in the event it was reported
lost, missing or stolen so that the laptop could be returned to the student."
The feature has been turned off, and will not be reactivated "without
express written notification to all students and families," McGinley
"We regret if this situation has caused any concern or
inconvenience among our students and families," he wrote. "We are
reviewing the matter and will provide an additional update as soon as
information becomes available."