March 6 2010

Two IT Employees Suspended In Lower Merion School District Webcam Case

The case of the webcam spying in the Lower Merion School District has now gotten two employees suspended for doing their jobs.

According to, Lower Merion School District employees Michael Perbix, a network technician, and Carol Cafiero, information systems coordinator have been suspended with pay while the investigation into the legalities of the webcam spy case are investigated.  These were the only two employees charged with the power of turning on the webcams, a task that could only be done when they received a phone call from a higher up at one of the high schools to report that a laptop had been lost or stolen.

All of this came to light due to 15-year-old Blake Robbins supposedly being confronted about being involved with drugs due to an image taken of him in his home while eating Mike & Ike candies, Apparently Mr. Robbins had not paid the $55 insurance fee on his Mac Book, which meant he was not allowed to take it home with him. When this was reported to the IT department, they activated the camera and captured the image of him with the candies that set off this firestorm.

The school district is now under investigation by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Montgomery County detectives, as well as being subpoenaed by the grand jury.  Due to these investigations, both Mr. Perbix and Ms. Cafiero have been suspended with pay until such time as the investigations are completed.

What has come to light now is that the local police were aware of the software as they had been presented with images taken by the cameras in cases where the laptops had been stolen.  Marc Neff, a lawyer representing Perbix, told, “Quite honestly, the police knew about these devices.  They were not in the dark about the fact that these computers were being tracked.”

All of the finger pointing aside, could someone explain to me why the two lowest people on the totem pole are the ones being suspended?  Did they choose to implement the software?  Sure, they may have recommended it, but someone above them had to approve it.  They also weren’t allowed to activate the cameras without express permission.

Now adding in that Mr. Robbins hadn’t paid his insurance fee is supposed to excuse all of this I’m assuming, but nothing changes the fact the school district did not inform parents that each of their children has “a loaded gun” pointing at them at all times in the form of a webcam.  Make all the excuses you want, this school district still messed up badly.

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