August 17 2010

No Charges Being Filed In School Webcam Case

It’s been a while since we heard anything about the Lower Merion School District webcam controversy, but it’s back in the news today.

First off, the Department of Justice has opted to not file any charges against the school district.  It was decided it was best to get this announced now before the new school year started so that the schools could begin without this hanging over their heads.

Too bad it turns out that a second lawsuit has been filed against the school district over the situation.  In the case of Jalil Hasan, he left his laptop in cooking class on Dec. 18th, 2009, it was turning into the office and he retrieved it from officials on Dec. 21st.  Later that day the tracking software was activated and it went on to gather 469 webcam photographs and 543 screen shots over the next two months.  Mr. Hasan is now 18, heading off to culinary school, but has filed a lawsuit for invasion of privacy.

As for the original lawsuit of Blake Robbins, that suit is still ongoing and his lawyer has asked for $418,000 from the school district to cover his expenses up through July.

In somewhat good news, the school has just issued a new computer policy that actually spells it out for parents and students.  What a concept.  The most important part is:

The most important changes to the policy concern theft tracking, remote access and the privacy of students’ files on District laptops. The School District will only access a student’s computer with the explicit written authority from parents/guardians and students. School personnel will only access a student’s laptop remotely to resolve a technical problem only if the student formally gives the district permission to do so. If the student chooses, he or she can decline the remote access and take the laptop directly to the school’s IT center for repair. Theft tracking software will only be activated if a student and parent/guardian file a police report and provide a signed “remote file access consent” form and a signed incident report to the principal verifying that a laptop has been lost or stolen. Theft tracking software would never have the capability of capturing screen shots, audio, video and on-screen text.

And, yes, all of the bolded words are their doing.  Apparently they really don’t want any confusion this time, but I still wouldn’t want one of their computers in my home.

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