Constitutional Law

Suit Says School Spied on Student at Home Via Laptop Webcam, Seeks Class Action Status


A lawsuit filed by a the parents of a teenage student contends that his upscale suburban Philadelphia high school spied on him via a webcam on the laptop computer it issued to him that could be remotely activated.

The suit, which was filed last week in federal court by Michael and Holly Robbins, seeks class action status on behalf of other students who, it alleges, could also have been subject to illegal surveillance by school officials, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It asserts claims for alleged violations of federal and state wiretap laws, the teen’s civil rights and invasion of privacy, contending that the district never disclosed, when it provided the laptop, that it could remotely access the webcam.

The situation came to their attention, the Robbins parents say in the suit, after a Harrington High School vice principal confronted their son in November over the teen’s claimed “improper behavior” and cited as evidence a webcam photograph.

Doug Young, a spokesman for Lower Merion School District, says it issued Apple laptops to all of its 2,290 high school students in what he describes as an “incredibly successful” initiative.

“This is the first we have heard of this lawsuit being filed and the plaintiff’s allegations,” he said in response to a request for comment from the Inquirer. “However, we can categorically state that we are—and have always been—committed to protecting the privacy of our students.”

The district has referred the case to its lawyers for “appropriate legal action” and will provide more information as it becomes available, he says.

Additional coverage:

Associated Press: “Suit: Pa. school spied on students via laptops”

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