According to the complaint, defendant Lower Merion School District this year instituted a "one to one laptop computer initiative," issuing each high school student with a personal laptop computer so as to
enabl[e] an authentic 21st-Century learning environment . . .[,] enhance opportunities for ongoing collaboration, and ensure that all students have 24/7 access to school based resources and the ability to seamlessly work on projects and research at school and at home.All seemed well and good until the plaintiff, Harriton High School student Blake J. Robbins, was taken aside by an assistant principal who
informed minor Plaintiff that the School District was of the belief that minor Plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor Plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the School District.Upon questioning by Robbins' father, the assistant principal
verified . . . that the school district in fact has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a student's personal laptop computer issued by the school district at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer.Not surprisingly, Robbins and his parents think this practice violates their rights under the Fourth Amendment and various privacy laws, not least because
many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stage of dress or undress.Without knowing about the whole remote-activated-webcam aspect, one might legitimately wonder why educational dollars are being used to hand out free laptops to residents of Philadelphia's Main Line suburbs. Surely the money would be better spent in, say, Kensington or Strawberry Mansion. But with these new revelations, it starts to make sense. Aside from better teachers, newer textbooks, and functioning buildings, what do rich kids in America get that poor kids don't? Answer: the luxury of attending schools instead of mini-prisons equipped with metal detectors, rent-a-cops, and zero-tolerance policies that result in seventh graders being arrested for writing on their desks.
Obviously this inequality needed to be remedied by equivalently striping Harriton High kids of their dignity and privacy, but in a manner less offensive to Main Line aesthetics. Harriton kids can come to school safe in the knowledge that their gym bags won't be x-rayed, and that their marker doodling will be remedied with Windex rather than handcuffs. But... Teacher is watching.