Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lower Merion Spying Scandal

Saturday, February 20, 2010
This post has nothing to do with sex, escorting or even Miami. Still, it is a pretty interesting topic, so read on.

Lower Merion School District, a well-to-do district outside Philadelphia, has been accused of spying on students by activating the Webcams on school-issued laptops. The story broke when 15-year-old Blake Robbins was apparently reprimanded by assistant vice principal Lindy Matsko for "inappropriate behavior" inside his own home.

So, how was this "inappropriate behavior" discovered? It seems that Harriton High School (the 2,300-pupil high school within the Lower Merion School District) has the ability to activate the Webcams on all school-issued laptops as they see fit. The school district claims this is only used to track down any stolen laptops.

Was Blake Robbins's laptop stolen? No. However, that didn't stop the Webcam on his laptop from being activated. On Nov. 11, assistant principal Matsko tried to reprimand Robbins for taking pills that she assumed were drugs. Robbins has denied the charge, saying the "pills" were actually candy.

Blake's parents, Michael and Holly Robbins, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the school district. I'm not a lawyer, but I would like to say two things, one to Blake himself and another to his parents:

1) Blake, I am truly sorry to hear of this invasion of privacy.

2) Mr. and Mrs. Robbins, don't worry about paying Blake's university tuition. Once the school district settles (and if they have any intelligence at all, they'll settle in lieu of going to court) he'll be able to go to any university he wants.

I know I have some teen readers on this blog. Perhaps I've even been read by a Lower Merion student. So, if any adolescents are reading this post now, understand that NO SCHOOL, at ANY TIME, has the right to monitor you outside of school grounds, or dictate your behavior at home.

What happened to Blake was a horrendous violation of privacy, and the Lower Merion School District deserves to pay dearly for it -- both in monetary terms as well as the sea of negative publicity they've been receiving all week. And that's a best case scenario. What's the worst case scenario?

If there is even ONE picture of a minor in a state of undress, the district will likely face child pornography charges. Possession or even the search of child pornography is a felony punishable by jail time. And if my research into the world of true crime has taught me anything, it's that those who peddle the flesh of children -- physically or digitally -- are targeted in prison more than any other class of criminal.

How dare Lower Merion think they can get away with this. Spying inside of students inside their own homes? Who the fuck do they (the assistant principal, school board, etc.) think they are? I've said it before, and I'll say it again: High School is IRRELEVANT post-graduation.

As someone who had to deal with a creepy encounter with a teacher at my own high school (read this past entry for all the details) I for one think it's time that public school teachers and administrators are held to the standards that every other working professional is.

Minors shouldn't have to go to school with criminals or perverts. Unfortunately, this news story proves that at least one public school outside Philadelphia has both.

Link: New York Times coverage.

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