There’s no evidence a Pennsylvania school district used school-issued laptop computers to spy on students, despite its questionable policies and its lack of regard for students’ privacy, a report issued last week by lawyers hired by the district says.
Concerns about an online chat captured in a screen shot of a school-issued computer led to public disclosure of the Lower Merion district’s laptop-tracking program, according to the report by the Philadelphia law firm Ballard Spahr, which was presented at a meeting of the school board. The firm recommended a ban on remote activations of webcams and remote capturing of screen shots from computers issued to students.
Harriton High School student Blake Robbins and his family alleged privacy violations over webcam images taken at home without their knowledge and sued the district, which said it secretly activated the webcams only to find missing laptops. But it admitted that lax policies had led it to capture 58,000 images.
As of Feb. 23, when the system was shut down, there were 30,564 webcam photographs and 27,428 screen shots in the systems of the districts information-services department. About 87 percent of the images recovered, however, resulted from failure to deactivate the features on a dozen laptops after they were found or recovered, the report said.
A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2010 edition of Education Week as District-Funded Report Finds no Evidence of Laptop Spying