Family suing school over webcams speaks
PHILADELPHIA - February 19, 2010 (WPVI) -- The family at the center of the spying webcam case speaks to Action News' Dann Cuellar.
"I'm happy that they're being looked at; I'm happy that somebody has taken charge of the situation, but it's also very scary," Holly Robbins said.
Holly Robbins, her husband Michael, and their son Blake sat with talked to Action News about the ordeal that involves Lower Merion School District, laptops, webcams, and the issue of spying.
They say it began with the principal of Harriton High calling them up and accusing Blake of selling drugs at home, saying they saw it all through the webcam on the school issued computer.
"She said that she had pictures of Blake that were taken on his computer of him holding up little, what she thought, were pills, but what turned out to be Mike & Ike candies," Holly said.
"I mean at first, I couldn't say anything because she was accusing me of selling drugs , I couldn't fight back, but I thought this was terrible, how could they do this," Blake said.
Holly says it was an invasion of privacy and it was as if "we had a peeping tom in our house."
"I send my son to school to learn not to be spied on," Holly said.
Mike was also concerned if the school spied on their 18-year-old daughter , who also has a school issued computer.
"Whether she comes out of the shower or she's getting changed, nobody really knows if anyone was watching her at any point and that's a little bit disconcerting," Mike said.
Lower Merion officials concede they remotely activated webcams 42 times to find missing student computers in the past 14 months, but did not spy on students as the Robins' are claiming in their lawsuit.
But the Robbins point out, they never reported Blake's computer stolen.
The Robbins say this should be a wakeup call to all parents.
"I just want them to know that they have to be very cautious of the computers they have taken home from the schools and this is, I think, all over the country, this is not just the Lower Merion School District," Holly said.
Privacy advocates say if these allegations are true they are the most egregious acts of invasion of privacy that they ever heard of.
While it's unclear of who hatched the idea to activate the webcams , even only to find missing laptops, the school district has suspended the program together.
On the Lower Merion School District website, a letter from the superintendent reads in part, "While certain rules for laptop use were spelled out - such as prohibitive uses on and off school property - there was no explicit notification that the laptop contained the security software. This notice should have been given and we regret that was not done. "
For the entire statement from Superintendent Dr. McGinley, click here.
pennsylvania, montgomery county, webcam controversy, local/state, dann cuellar
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