$610,000 settles spycam case

Two students photographed in their bedrooms by their school-issued laptops have settled with the Lower Merion School District in suburban Philadelphia. The district will pay $610,000, Wired reports. One student gets $175,000, the other gets $10,000 and the rest goes their lawyers.

 School officians say the webcams were activated only if a computer was reported lost or stolen. The 6,900-pupil district lends free MacBooks to high school students.

The original suit was based on a claim by (Blake) Robbins, a sophomore at the time, that school officials reprimanded him for “improper behavior” based on photos the computer secretly took of the boy at home last fall. One picture shows him asleep at home last October.

That “behavior” turned out to be pill popping. The family said their son was eating Mike and Ike candy, his lawyer claimed.

The district says its insurance will pay the full cost of the litigation.  Prosecutors announced two months ago that no criminal charges will be filed.

No charges in webcam spy case

Lower Merion School District employees will not face criminal charges for using webcam-equipped laptops to photograph students in their homes, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Prosecutors said criminal intent couldn’t be proved.

Lawsuits filed by two district students will proceed.

The district’s own investigation concluded that technicians used the software only to find lost or missing laptops. But its report also found that staffers often forgot to turn off the tracking system after they turned it on, letting the webcams snap tens of thousands of photos and send them to the district’s servers in the last two years.

At least 40 students were photographed through their laptops.

56,000 spycam images

The Philadelphia Inquirer has more on the investigation of the Lower Merion School District spycam case,

(School) employees activated the web cameras and tracking software on laptops they gave to high school students about 80 times in the past two school years, snapping nearly 56,000 images that included photos of students, pictures inside their homes and copies of the programs or files running on their screens, district investigators have concluded.

. . . in at least five instances, school employees let the Web cams keep clicking for days or weeks after students found their missing laptops, according to the review. Those computers – programmed to snap a photo and capture a screen shot every 15 minutes when the machine was on – fired nearly 13,000 images back to the school district servers.

Only one student was monitored for failing to pay insurance on the laptop, investigators say.  That must have been sophomore Blake Robbins, who filed suit.  In 15 cases, investigators were unable to determine why school officials turned on the spycam.