After months of controversy, federal authorities said they do not plan to press charges against Pennsylvania school officials for allegedly spying on a student via Webcam.
In a statement today, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said there was insufficient evidence of criminal intent to charge officials in the Lower Merion School District. The district has been accused in a lawsuit of using a Webcam on a school-issued Apple MacBook to take pictures of a student in his home.
“After a thorough review of the evidence in this matter by my office,” Memeger said in a statement, “the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the Montgomery County Detectives, and the Lower Merion Police Department, I have concluded that bringing criminal charges is not warranted in this matter. For the government to prosecute a criminal case, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged acted with criminal intent. We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent.”
The FBI began probing possible criminal charges in February, after Michael and Holly Robbins filed a lawsuit against Lower Merion accusing the district of spying on their son, Blake, in the family’s home. According to the suit, the district gave high school students computers as part of a technology initiative, and did not notify families that the laptops were equipped with Webcams that could be turned on remotely. The family alleged they did not learn of the capability until school officials accused Blake Robbins of “improper behavior in his home” and cited a photograph from the Webcam embedded in the laptop as evidence.
The civil suit by the Robbins family is still pending. Memeger said he chose to make his announcement prior to the start of the school year “to close at least one part of this matter.”