Lower Merion parents meet on webcam spying suit
NARBERTH, Pa. - March 2, 2010 (WPVI) -- Opposition to a class action lawsuit seems to be gaining momentum in the Lower Merion School District.
A meeting was held Tuesday night at Narberth Borough Hall. It was limited to parents of Lower Merion School District students issued a laptop with a webcam.
The meeting was sparked by a lawsuit brought by the family of Harriton High sophomore Blake Robbins, which accuses district employees of remotely activating the webcam on his laptop to photograph him.
The meeting room was at capacity, with more than 150 parents showing up. Some were there to ask questions, while others were there to raise concerns over the class action lawsuit filed in federal court by the Robbins family.
A lot of ground was covered Tuesday night but several concerns remain.
First, parents are concerned about a lack of information due to the gag order that prevents even elected school officials from releasing details about what happened.
Second, a class action lawsuit and the accompanying legal expenses to the school district would have the same result, as one parent puts it, as essentially suing themselves.
"I think it's going to put a burden on the students and taxpayers. We already built a new high school, have another on the way. We have a burden already," said parent Lonnie Hovey.
"We really feel the administration and school district is doing what they can to educate our children and we don't want to jump to conclusions," said parent Colleen Wortley.
Four fathers of school district children are spearheading the effort. Two are elected officials and two are attorneys engaged in this effort as private citizens in a pro-bono effort.
They're circulating an online petition on lmsdparents.org hoping to prevent this lawsuit from being certified as a class action by a judge. The petition has more than 300 parent signatures.
They say there are less costly ways to proceed, adding they are in no way thwarting the efforts of investigators.
"We'd like this issue to be resolved efficiently, effectively, and with limited level of cost to the county," said Michael J. Boni.
The Robbins' attorney, Mark Haltzman, requested to address parents but was declined. He says the family wants the litigation resolved quickly. In a statement he added"The Robbins' remain hopeful that with prompt disclosure of all pictures and other information captured by use of the webcams, and that assurances that such information is properly destroyed, we can reach that goal".
Organizers say the meeting was exploratory with no clear cut next step.
pennsylvania, montgomery county, webcam controversy, local/state, katherine scott
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