Sick school district admits wrongdoing

When a government organization settles a lawsuit, can we just start saying they’re admitting wrongdoing? If they thought they were going to win, they would try. For example, Lower Merion School District knew it was going to lose a case since it was in the wrong, so the district effectively admitted as much when they settled a case of spying on underage students.

A Philadelphia-area school district agreed Monday to pay $610,000 to settle two lawsuits over secret photos taken on school-issued laptops.

The Lower Merion School District admitted it captured thousands of webcam photographs and screen shots from student laptops in a misguided effort to locate missing computers.

Harriton High School student Blake Robbins, then 15, charged in an explosive civil-rights lawsuit filed in February that the district used its remote tracking technology to spy on him inside his home. Later evidence unearthed in the case showed that he was photographed 400 times in a two-week period, sometimes as he slept in his bedroom, according to his lawyer, Mark Haltzman.

The settlement calls for $175,000 to be placed in a trust for Robbins and $10,000 for a second student who filed suit, Jalil Hassan. Their lawyer, Mark Haltzman, will get $425,000 for his work on the case.

The district often did this in an effort to figure out where lost laptops were located. That would be fine if they did it with simple GPS units – after informing students and parents – but that isn’t the method they chose. Instead they decided to go with turning on webcams. What’s worse, they went about falsely accusing students of things they illegally saw them doing.

According to his suit, Robbins learned of the practice when a Harriton vice principal cited a laptop photo in telling him that the school thought he was engaging in improper behavior. Robbins told reporters the school had mistaken candy he was seen eating for drugs.

I’m entirely against a school punishing a student for any illegal activity that takes place outside school which does not directly affect anyone else at school while at school, but this is above and beyond that. The school thought it would be okay to illegally obtain images which they would illegally view and then illegally punish students for what they saw. Have these people no common sense?

I’m glad this district is out $600K. Maybe they can add this incident to their civic and government courses.

Oh, and there’s this unsurprising tidbit:

The district is no longer using the tracking program.

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