The school district accused of spying on students at home via laptop webcam has agreed to settle two student lawsuits for a total of $610,000. The Lower Merion School District board of directors released a statement Tuesday morning, saying that it decided to settle in order to move on and "protect the interests of our taxpayers," even if that meant not being able to share its own side of the story.
The webcam issue first came to light in February when high school student Blake J. Robbins was disciplined by his assistant principal for engaging in "improper behavior" while at home—the evidence for which was apparently a photograph from the built-in webcam on his school-issued laptop. Once the Robbins family filed its class-action lawsuit against the district, the FBI began investigating the case as well to see whether the school had broken any federal wiretap laws.
Following a court order to preserve the webcam images from the district's 2,300 student-issued laptops, the Robbins' updated their claims, saying that the school took more than 400 photos of Blake in his room (some while he was "partially undressed"). Additionally, they said the school took "thousands" more pictures of other students in their homes, or in some case screenshots of private IM conversations.
Even worse, the IT staff responsible for monitoring the student laptops seemingly viewed the whole thing as entertainment, with one admin telling another via e-mail that the photos were "like a little [Lower Merion School District] soap opera." Another responded with, "I know. I love it!"...