Friday, February 19, 2010

School administrations are not police

Just days after telling you about the student who successfully sued her school for violating her free speech rights when they punished her for her Facebook page we see a new lawsuit filed, this time alleging invasion of privacy by school officials. If true, it is truly a case of school officialdom run amok.
In the Lower Merion School District each high school student was issued a laptop to improve and engage the students more fully in their education. The laptops were equipped with webcams and had software installed on them that allowed the webcam on a stolen laptop to be activated remotely, sending a still picture of whoever was using the laptop back to the school.

That's all well and good, but the students and their parents were not informed of this feature. Even that might not have been a big deal, but in at least one instance a picture was taken of a student whose laptop had not been stolen. And the student (and his family) learned of this when an assistant principal called the boy into the office and informed him that he was engaged in inappropriate activity at home. For proof he produced the picture taken using the webcam.

One has to wonder how many photos were taken, and showing what. The school had no right to be taking pictures of the students. Even if they thought the student was involved in something illegal, they had no right to activate the camera. Even the police would have had to prove probable cause to a judge and gotten a warrant.