Official: FBI probing school webcam spying case

The suit does not say if the boy’s laptop had been reported stolen, and Young said the litigation prevents him from disclosing that fact. He said the district never violated its policy of only using the remote-activation software to find missing laptops. “Infer what you want,” Young said.

The suit accuses the school of turning on Blake’s webcam while the computer was inside his Penn Valley home, allegedly violating wiretap laws and his right to privacy.

Blake Robbins told KYW-TV on Feb. 19 that a school official described him in his room and mistook a piece of candy for a pill.

“She described what I was doing,” he said. “She said she thought I had pills and said she thought that I was selling drugs.”

Robbins said he was holding a Mike and Ike candy, not pills.

Holly Robbins said a school official told her that she had a picture of Blake holding up what she thought were pills.

“It was an invasion of privacy; it was like we had a Peeping Tom in our house,” Holly Robbins told WPVI-TV. “I send my son to school to learn, not to be spied on.”

Neither the family nor their lawyer, Mark Haltzman, returned calls from AP for comments this week.

“We believe that the administrator at Harriton has been unfairly portrayed and unjustly attacked in connection with her attempts to be supportive of a student and his family,” the statement on the Lower Merion School District site said. “The district never did and never would use such tactics as a basis for disciplinary action.”

The district’s web site said 42 activations of the system resulted in the recovery of 18 computers, not 28 as district spokesman Doug Young had said earlier. The statement reiterated that this was done only to locate lost, stolen, or missing laptops.

“While certain rules for laptop use were spelled out … there was no explicit notification that the laptop contained the security software,” McGinley said. “This notice should have been given, and we regret that was not done.”

Even so, the potential for abuse was nearly limitless, especially because many teens keep their computers in their bedrooms, experts said.

“This is an age where kids explore their sexuality, so there’s a lot of that going on in the room,” said Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which is not involved in the Robbins case. “This is fodder for child porn.”

Andy Derrow, father of a Harriton junior, said he does not believe the district was spying on students. He said he has two other sons who graduated from the school and had substantially benefited from the computer program.

“I don’t think there was any ill intent here,” he said “I think we all need to take a breath and wait and see what the facts are.”


Lower Merion School District

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Center for Democracy and Technology

American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania

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