A webcam scandal at a suburban Philadelphia school district expanded Tuesday to include a second student alleging his school-issued laptop secretly snapped images of him.
The brouhaha commenced in February, when a student of Lower Merion School District was called into an administrator’s office. Sophomore Blake Robbins was shown a picture of himself that officials suggested was him popping pills. The family claimed it was candy.
An invasion of privacy lawsuit followed, and allegedly culled evidence that the district had snapped thousands of pictures of its students via webcams affixed to the 2,300 Apple laptops the district issued. Some of the images included pictures of youths at home, in bed or even “partially dressed,” (.pdf) according to a filing in the case. Students’ online chats were also captured, as well as a record of the websites they visited.
The latest allegations (.pdf) Tuesday, brought by an 18-year-old former student who had just graduated from Lower Merion High, came to light in the discovery phase of Robbins’ suit.
Student Jalil Hasan reported his laptop lost December 18, and it was returned to him three days later, according to the suit.
But the LanRev Theft Track program, which the district activated when the computer was reported missing, was never turned off after the computer was given back to Hasan, according to the lawsuit.
The tracking software on Hasan’s computer wasn’t turned off until February 18, when Robbins filed suit, the suit alleges, claiming that at least 469 photographs and 543 screenshots were taken by Hasan’s computer without his knowledge.
Hasan’s suit said the images “were taken without Jalil’s knowledge, without his authorization and to his utter shock, dismay, panic, embarrassment and disgust.”
A federal judge presiding over the matter, who is weighing whether to allow a class action lawsuit against the district, has blocked administrators from activating the LanRev program again. The district said the cameras were activated only when a laptop was reported stolen or missing — assertions lawyers suing the district dispute.
Two school district employees who controlled the LanRev activation process have been placed on paid, administrative leave.
The district declined comment. Federal prosecutors have also been given evidence generated from Robbins’ suit.
Photo: Magic Madzic
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