Classroom Technology

School Webcam Flap Spurs Look at Wiretap Laws

By The Associated Press — April 06, 2010 1 min read

Broadening wiretap laws to include videotaped surveillance could either safeguard privacy or thwart efforts to recover stolen property, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., was told at a recent hearing in Philadelphia, not far from a school that sparked a lawsuit for trying to find missing laptops by activating their webcams.

Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion school district has been sued by a high school student who accuses the district of spying by secretly activating webcams on the school-issued laptops. Officials admit they did so but said they were only trying to locate 42 lost or stolen laptop computers. The accusations are the subject of ongoing county and FBI investigations.

Existing wiretap and video-voyeurism statutes do not adequately address privacy and other concerns in an era marked by the widespread use of cellphone, laptop, and surveillance cameras, Sen. Specter had said prior to last week’s hearing. He later said that testimony at the hearing convinced him of that.

The testimony included a written statement from Blake Robbins, the Harriton High School student who sued the Lower Merion district.

“My family and I recognize that in today’s society, almost every place we go outside of our home we are photographed and recorded by traffic cameras, ATM cameras, and store surveillance cameras,” the student wrote. “This makes it all the more important that we vigilantly safeguard our homes, the only refuge we have from this eyes everywhere onslaught.”

Only one person from the Lower Merion district—a parent opposed to the Robbins family’s lawsuit—testified at the hearing, which heard mainly from experts debating the right balance between privacy and security concerns.

The parent, Bob Wegbreit, said a warning might suffice to let families know the district might activate webcams without a student’s knowledge. Students could then choose to keep the computers in other parts of the house, instead of their bedrooms, said Mr. Wegbreit, who fears the lawsuit will damage the upscale districts finances and reputation.

A version of this article appeared in the April 07, 2010 edition of Education Week as Webcams Posing Policy Conundrum

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Opinion Getting Ed Tech Wrong Would Be a Bitter Pandemic Legacy
Bad ed-tech habits that formed during the shutdown risk compromising instruction and even slowing the return to school next fall.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Sponsor
Simplify K-5 Learning with Digital Content—All in One Place
Children learn best when there are fewer barriers to learning. Gale In Context: Elementary, matches how young kids naturally navigate online
Content provided by Gale
Gale In Context: Elementary replicates the way curious kids naturally learn, simplifying the experience
Gale In Context: Elementary replicates the way curious kids naturally learn, simplifying the experience.
Classroom Technology From Our Research Center During COVID-19, Schools Have Made a Mad Dash to 1-to-1 Computing. What Happens Next?
Districts that purchased devices for hybrid and remote learning will have to determine how to use them for in-person instruction.
8 min read
A line of volunteers carries iPads to be delivered to parents at curbside pickup at Eastside Elementary on March 23, 2020, in Clinton, Miss. Educators are handing out the devices for remote learning while students are forced to stay home during the coronavirus outbreak.
A line of volunteers carries iPads to be delivered to parents at curbside pickup at Eastside Elementary a year ago in Clinton, Miss.<br/>
Julio Cortez/AP
Classroom Technology From Our Research Center Most Students Now Have Home Internet Access. But What About the Ones Who Don't?
Here's what school districts, states, and the federal government are doing to improve at-home access to devices and the internet.
8 min read
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advance placement World History Teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays a wifi hot spot that are being handed out to students in Dallas on April 9, 2020. Dallas I.S.D. is handing out the devices along with wifi hotspots to students in need so that they can connect online for their continued education amid the COVID-19 health crisis.
Sam Urban Wittrock, left, an advanced placement World History teacher at W.W. Samuell High School, displays one of the Wi-Fi hotspots that were handed out to students in Dallas in April of 2020. The Dallas school district gave the devices to students who needed them to do schoolwork at home during the pandemic.
Tony Gutierrez/AP