Feb 222010
 February 22, 2010  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Surveillance, Youth & Schools

New revelations in The Philadelphia Inquirer hint that there may have been an innocent explanation for why the Lower Merion School District reportedly activated a webcam while the laptop was in the student’s home.

On the same day that a court issued a temporary restraining order that bars the district from reactivating the remote security system and orders them to preserve all electronic evidence, Dan Hardy, Derrick Nunnally, and John Shiffman report:

District spokesman Douglas Young yesterday repeated that the security program was developed to help recover lost or stolen laptops, and added: “This included tracking loaner laptops that may, against regulations, have been taken off campus.”

The wealthy Lower Merion district purchased Apple MacBook laptops for all 2,300 students in its Harriton and Lower Merion High Schools.

But the district requires all students to pay a $55 insurance fee, with a $100 deductible if they are damaged or lost, according to a 2009 letter to parents from Harriton principal Steven R. Kline. “No uninsured laptops are permitted off campus,” Kline wrote.

Each school has a pool of “loaner laptops” available for students who haven’t paid the fee. Asked if Robbins took a loaner computer home without authorization, Young declined to comment.

Was Blake Robbins’ laptop an uninsured laptop that was seemingly “missing” because it left campus? It’s not clear from the news coverage as the district did not answer that question and the family would not speak with the reporter. But this case could soon find itself on very wobbly legs if it turns out that the student triggered security monitoring by removing a laptop from campus that should not have been removed.

The reporters also reveal that some students had confronted the administration last year about the potential for students to be spied on via the iSight system and encouraged the administration to inform the student body about any surveillance policies. No statement was reportedly issued, however, despite the students contacting the administration again to express their concerns.

Read more in The Philadelphia Inquirer and MyFoxPhilly.com.

Update: A copy of the restraining order can be found here.

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