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PA School Spied On Students Via School-Issued Laptop Webcams 941

Posted by timothy
from the wait-for-your-health-insurance-computer dept.
jargon82 writes "A Pennsylvania high school is using laptops they issued to students to spy on them in homes and outside of school. According to a class action filling the webcams and microphones in these laptops could be remotely activated by school officials, and have been used in this role. One student was accused of 'improper behavior in his home' and the school provided a photo taken via his laptop as proof."
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PA School Spied On Students Via School-Issued Laptop Webcams

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  • Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mano.m (1587187) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @02:55PM (#31188150)
    Solves all problems. At least the ones that WD-40 can't.
    • Re:Tape (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dfm3 (830843) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:02PM (#31188312) Journal
      All problems? Good luck using that tape to cover the microphone...
      • Re:Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:09PM (#31188470) Homepage Journal

        He simply wasn't paying attention when Kowalski explained it to Toad. It's THREE magic tools -- duct tape, WD-40, and a pair of vicegrips. The vicegrips will fix the microphone problem, and actually should be used on the school's principal.

        I hope the parents of the affected kids get a million bucks apiece from the district, and somebody in the school's administration goes to prison. A peeping Tom would get prison, how is this not the same thing only worse? School administrators should be made to realize that they're not gods, and the kids and their parents have rights.

        If any of the parents are like some people I know, those administrators should be fearing for their personal safety.

        • Re:Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lorenlal (164133) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:29PM (#31188842)

          A problem with that lawsuit is that the district would be using funds from the taxpayer... Which hardly punishes the right people. This was clearly a problem with the individuals who made and approved the asinine idea of spying on the kids at home. They're the ones who should be sued, and fired.

          • Re:Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

            by pclminion (145572) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @04:22PM (#31190024)

            The taxpayers are exactly who should be punished. They elected a set of officials who apparently believe it's okay to spy on families in their own homes. Government is not apart from us. The government is established by us and draws its powers from us. If taxpayers can't be bothered to learn about the political persuations and tendencies of those they elect, then they deserve the blow-back when things go wrong. Hopefully, this will teach the public to think more critically when filling out their ballot.

            You might say that this outcome could not possibly have been foreseen. That may be true, but the fault is still the people, who did not demand the appropriate levels of oversight of their educational institutions. You send your kids for 6 to 8 hours every day to this place. To not know what's going on is absolutely unacceptable. You ARE the root of the power of the government. You ARE responsible for what it does.

            • Re:Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

              by schlick (73861) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @05:10PM (#31191056)

              I'm sorry but you're wrong about punishing taxpayers. Your suggestion punishes people who voted AGAINST the officials who broke the law. The people who voted against were doing all they legally could and do not deserve to be punished. You keep saying, "people" and "taxpayers" as if everyone is unanimous which is not true. Taxpayers are not the same as stockholders who can divest anytime they don't like the performance of a company.

              The officials who acted are the ones to be punished and removed if applicable, and "the people" should be required to hold another election.

            • Re:Tape (Score:5, Informative)

              by sodul (833177) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @05:22PM (#31191296) Homepage

              The taxpayers are exactly who should be punished. They elected a set of officials who apparently believe it's okay to spy on families in their own homes.

              taxpayer != voter

              Do you realize that I am a taxpayer and have absolutely no right to vote ? There are quite a few people in this situation. At the same time a lot of US citizens have the right to vote but do not pay taxes.

              Why should I be punished for something I had absolutely no control over while the ones who voted these criminals into office are not ?

              The US has taxation without representation and representation without taxation, so stop blaming me for paying my fair share of taxes.

            • Re:Tape (Score:4, Insightful)

              by alanshot (541117) <[rurick] [at] [techondemand.net]> on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:19AM (#31196124)

              The taxpayers are exactly who should be punished. They elected a set of officials who apparently believe it's okay to spy on families in their own homes. ...

              RIIIIGHT.... and your sister should go to jail for child abuse because she married a guy that 5 years into the relationship started drinking and then suddenly snapped, and beat the kids severely. Since he was beating the kids and she CHOSE to marry him, she therefore is just as liable for the abuse to the kids as he is, from the first unforseen blows, with no allowances for hindsight (eg she left him after the first time he became abusive).

              Using your logic, the above scenario makes sense too.

              I think the individuals responsible for the decision should be brought up on criminal charges PERSONALLY, and not as a member of the administration. Intent or no, this was clearly a bad idea dreamed up by a warped individual.

          • Re:Tape (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Mistlefoot (636417) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @04:26PM (#31190104)
            And jailed.

            If even a single 14 year was viewed naked in the privacy of their own home by a covert camera laws will have been broken.

            http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/28/webcam_coersion_suspect/

            A life sentence is what this guy faced.........

            Be interesting to see how much of this is hype and how much really happened.
        • Re:Tape (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@noSPam.gmail.com> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:32PM (#31188926) Homepage Journal

          Peeping Toms go to prison. People who peep in on kids get "special" treatment in prison.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kimvette (919543)

          I hope the parents of the affected kids get a million bucks apiece from the district,

          Honestly, I hope that they get a lot more than that, that any elected officials who were aware of the situation and didn't work to prevent it are impeached and convicted (and given serious prison time as well as any government benefits including pensions revoked), and the school administration officials receive the same - and the district be blocked from "making up" for the "losses" through taxes. Tax increases should be o

          • Re:Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @04:10PM (#31189764)

            Don't get me wrong, I agree with the sentiment and the emotion but throwing one of our basic civil right out the window (no cruel and unusual punishment) in an effort to protect a different one (privacy) is exactly the kind of thing that we need to be fighting against. Our basic rights exist for a reason, and while I hold privacy and the first ammendment especially close to my heart, I don't want to see any of them eroded. Besides, the legal system had better be more than capable of dealing with this situation, it's so clear cut that I can't even imagine what was going through the heads of those responsible. If our legal system can't deal with it correctly... well then I'm one step closer to believing that our country is heading for the sewers (if it's not already there).

    • Re:Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spatial (1235392) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:06PM (#31188402)
      Solves all symptoms. The problem remains.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        I had a hole in a heater hose, and duct taped it until the auto parts stores opened, and never got around to replacing the hose. Whe I got rid of the car three years later, the hose still didn't leak.

        I'd say it fixed THAT problem.

      • Re:Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:55PM (#31189440)

        But... but... I thought people would love it that way?

        Child porn on the net? Block the site. Let the rapist continue doing what he does.
        Headache because of eating fast food? Take a pain killer. And continue eating fast food.
        A tornado wrecks the house? Build a new one. And wait for the next hurricane.
        The boyfriend turns out to be an asshole? Whine about it to your friends. And go fuck the next guy who is an asshole, but sooo cute.
        A political party lied to and fucks up the nation? Vote for “the other” party. And vote for this one again next time, when the other one turns out to be just as bad.
        Rinse and repeat.

        Isn’t that how most “people” “solve” their problems?
        “Cattle” might be a better term. Then again, at least a donkey never does an error more than twice. :/

  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LogarithmicSpiral (1463679) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @02:56PM (#31188168)
    Does anyone see some child porn charges coming here?
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe@jws[ ]he.com ['myt' in gap]> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:01PM (#31188302) Homepage Journal

          No shit. Not that I advocate underage people doing anything, but all it takes is one girl changing clothes in her room with the laptop turned on, and then they have a stack of federal charges.

          I'm pretty sure there are some federal charges that can be associated with that anyways.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HTH NE1 (675604)

        I think they'd have to record it for it to be child pornography. Streaming would be sexual exploitation of a child and whatever the legal term for peeping-tom is.

        But then I knew of some teachers in my high school who had no problem watching students have sex in a car in the school parking lot. Not via cameras; live viewing through a window overlooking the parking lot. (They just wouldn't let me have a look.)

        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JustNilt (984644) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:37PM (#31189036) Homepage

          They clearly DID record it. They used a picture of the child in the case engaging in "improper behavior in the home" then confirmed to the child's father that this is true. I'm horrified by this and want to know why the heck there aren't also criminal charges filed against every staff member who knew of this without alerting the public.

          What an incredibly terrifying thing this must be to each family in that district who has had such a laptop in their home. Aside from basic states of undress they may have caught kids in there's the likelihood of actually having captured sex acts, whether adults or children. This is just insane! It's not just stored, either. Clearly someone actually reviews these recordings!

          This is all aside from what exactly a school is thinking for disciplining children for something that happens int he home. As a father myself I'd be furious if such a thing happened to my child. Sure, some things can impact schools but this takes it to an entirely new level.

          Un-fucking-believable.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lgw (121541) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:11PM (#31188510) Journal

        To me, the whole idea that a school could possibly accuse a student of "inappropriate behavior in the home" is worse than the web cams. Seriously, WTF? This is taking the whole "school as babysitter" thing a bit to far.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NotBornYesterday (1093817) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:27PM (#31188814) Journal

        Doesn't matter if the child is male or female ... naked + underage = trouble for whoever made/possesses the image. Of course, there are problems with the puritanical, nanny-state mindset of the zealots who use those laws to jail teens who take pictures of their own bodies, but its use seems strikingly apropos here, given the voyeuristic nature of the complaint.

        What I want to know is
        a) Who thought it would be a good idea to allow remote control of the camera and mic? Sounds like it would require school administrator and systems administrator knowledge and cooperation.
        b) Who thought it would be a good idea to actually use and review the video streams? Having the theoretical ability is one thing, but to actually make use of it is worse.
        c) With regard to the student who was spoken to about their "innappropriate behavior", what directed the school's attention to the laptop in question? With all the laptops potentially involved, the sheer numbers make it impossible for a school's admin staff to monitor them all.
        d) When was the student's "inappropriate behavior" monitored? Was it after school hours, at home? Was it during school hours? What was the conduct in question?
        e) IF YOU ARE A SCHOOL OFFICIAL PEEKING AT KIDS' PRIVATE MOMENTS, HOW MUCH OF A FREAKIN' BONEHEAD DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO CONFRONT THEM WITH EVIDENCE OBTAINED BY SUCH QUESTIONABLE MEANS?

        I hereby sentence the offending individuals to take whatever Civics/US Government 101 class is mandatory for all students in their school. Anyone with less than an A final grade will be shot. Anyone who gets an A will be forced to write the complete Bill of Rights 10,000 times, before being forever exiled to the set of Big Brother.

    • Should (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:13PM (#31188552)

      Someone should go to jail for this.

      Child porn charges should be raised, of course. Further, the cameras/mics could be used to spy on anyone in the house, including adults who are not in any way, shape, or form under the guardianship of the school. So any argument about guardianship is moot.

      Sadly, no one will go to jail for this. Some administrator will be told not to do it again, and the school board will be fined, and that will be the end of it. At least, that is all that happened when a school nurse (not a cop) forced a child to strip and wiggle (without probable cause, for that matter).

      I don't understand how a society that is so obsessed with protecting the children that it tries children as adults for crimes that wouldn't have been crimes if the children were adults can turn around and let adults off scott-free when they directly break the law to the detriment of children.

      Irrationality really frustrates me. And scares me, too.

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:15PM (#31188588) Journal

      Here's the full list of claims they're making:

      Electronic Communications Privacy Act - interception of communications
      Computer Fraud and Abuse Act - exceeding authorized access
      Stored Communication Act - more unauthorized access
      Civil Rights Act - Invasion of Privacy
      4th Amendment - Invasion of Privacy
      Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act - wiretapping
      Pennsylvania common law (1) - Invasion of Privacy

      (1) footnote reads: "Should discovery disclose that the Defendants are in possession of images constituting child pornography [...] Plaintiffs will amend this Complaint to assert a cause of action thereunder."

      Bonus: Not only does the class action include the 1,800 students, but all their family members.
      That school district is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon (987471) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:29PM (#31188864)

        As much as I'd like to see several people go to prison over this, I feel bad for the local taxpayers and their kids who will have to go to a school $50 million in the red..

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SpuriousLogic (1183411) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:31PM (#31188906)
        This really warrants criminal charges against the school officials who are behind this, not just a civil action. The FBI and local law enforcement should be reading those officials Miranda.
      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:33PM (#31188974) Journal

        Bonus: Not only does the class action include the 1,800 students, but all their family members. That school district is fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked

        You mean the taxpayers in that school district are fuuuuucked.

        But I sure hope anyone who had a hand in it is canned.

        That said... the laptops were provided by the school. Just like my employer, I'm sure the school made it clear that use of the laptops would be monitored, non-official use is verboten, etc. Turning the webcams on definitely crossed the line in terms of monitoring, IMO. What if some kid was doing their homework in their underwear, or naked? That's using the laptop for sanctioned purposes.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by HTH NE1 (675604) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:40PM (#31189102)

        And the school will produce their Acceptable Computer Use Policy where all of the above is authorized by the parent or other legal guardian of each student, and transferring the responsibility of any illegal acts upon the student or upon their parent or other legal guardian (including prevention of anyone being in the presence of the laptop in any state of partial or complete undress or engaging in any form of sexual or excretory activity, real or pantomimed, in the presence of the laptop).

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shogarth (668598) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:42PM (#31189156)

        Let's assume for a minute that the complaint is correct and that the school was remotely monitoring some set of students. (This might not be correct. Did the snapshot come from some public source like FaceBook?).

        If it were my daughter's computer, I would not be talking about a class-action suit with a civil attorney. I would be sitting down at police HQ and the district attorney's office pursuing criminal charges against the individuals involved. They would need to face the felony charges that their behavior warranted. Once that was rolling, I would go after the individuals (not the district) for civil damages.

        Why give a pass to the deep pockets? Simply because I don't want to have to look my neighbors in the face when a fractional point increase in their property taxes is required to pay a civil settlement that made me wealthy. I have no problems bankrupting the people who authorized and deployed the tech.

    • by PRMan (959735) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @08:10PM (#31193440)
      Here [lmsd.org]

      According to them, the system only took 1 single picture to recover a stolen laptop. Now, the thief's parents are suing the school.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18, 2010 @02:56PM (#31188174)

    They were obviously trying to weed out all those terrorists, commies, subversives or whatever the government is at war with this time.
    Its better to start at an early age.
    I cant wait until they can scan foetal DNA to find out if its going to be a paedophile or terrorist.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sconeu (64226)

      They were obviously trying to weed out all those terrorists, commies, subversives or whatever the government is at war with this time.

      No, this is PA, not South Carolina.

  • Turn it around (Score:5, Insightful)

    by initialE (758110) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @02:56PM (#31188190)

    And accuse school officials of pedophilia. This will be fun...

  • at the very least (Score:4, Interesting)

    by heffy (1583469) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @02:57PM (#31188202)
    School officials might avoid child porn charges if they prove they didn't see any lewd images, but I definitely see a lot of people getting fired.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MartinSchou (1360093)

      School officials might avoid child porn charges if they prove they didn't see any lewd images,

      First of all, you cannot prove that. Secondly, they knew the software was there, making them guilty of TRYING to produce child pornography.

      Seriously. If they "happen" to have pictures of some kid "behaving improperly", they will definitely have pictures/movies of everything else that kid has been doing.

      • Re:at the very least (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WCMI92 (592436) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:09PM (#31188478) Homepage

        First of all, you cannot prove that. Secondly, they knew the software was there, making them guilty of TRYING to produce child pornography.

        Seriously. If they "happen" to have pictures of some kid "behaving improperly", they will definitely have pictures/movies of everything else that kid has been doing.

        That is exactly what everyone who had a hand in setting this up, or who KNEW that this had been set up, should be charged with ASAP. Conspiracy to create child pornography, because they set up a situation almost CERTAIN TO PRODUCE IT!

        People certainly have been charged with child porn or similar charges for a lot less, including activity that didn't actually involve a minor (ie: a cop pretending to be one). These monsters were ACTUALLY RECORDING VIDEO AND AUDIO OF CHILDREN WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT!

        • Re:at the very least (Score:5, Informative)

          by MartinSchou (1360093) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:26PM (#31188796)

          These monsters were ACTUALLY RECORDING VIDEO AND AUDIO OF CHILDREN WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT!

          There is no consent in child pornography. If the students are under 18, they cannot consent, and if they are 18+, it's not child pornography. But it will definitely be a violation of various other things.

    • Re:at the very least (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rary (566291) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#31188646)

      School officials might avoid child porn charges if they prove they didn't see any lewd images, but I definitely see a lot of people getting fired.

      The AP is reporting that they allegedly did see lewd images.

      The lawsuit alleges the cameras captured images of Harriton High School students and their families as they undressed and in other compromising situations.

  • by rcpitt (711863) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @02:59PM (#31188240) Homepage Journal
    Personally I hope those responsible for this invasion of privacy are subjected to home monitoring - by the whole internet. Strap a camera around their neck and make them wear it and broadcast continuously for at least 1 year.

    Idiots!

  • Stupidity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NiceGeek (126629) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:00PM (#31188268)

    WTF is "improper behavior in the home", and why does the school seem to think that it's their business?

  • by fyrewulff (702920) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:01PM (#31188284)

    School officials tend to think themselves as above the law / the law way too many times in my personal experience, not surprised that some decided they would also be the police in these kids homes.

    I hope they lose this suit. Hard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WCMI92 (592436)

      School officials tend to think themselves as above the law / the law way too many times in my personal experience, not surprised that some decided they would also be the police in these kids homes.

      They are pretty much being trained to think of themselves as such, as it suits the government educational establishment and the goals of the statists who maintain a near government monopoly on education.

      IE: control the kids, control the eventual adult. Teach them that this is "normal" and that they aren't to step out of line or the state will be on them.

      I hope they lose this suit. Hard.

      So do I, but you will see the school district start pleading poverty, and they will get sympathetic treatment by the courts. The courts, being another gov

    • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:17PM (#31188616)
      I have to agree. My daughter's elementary wants to press criminal charges against us for taking her on a 4-day trip to see Grandma on Thanksgiving. We notified the teacher and the school beforehand, got her classwork and homework, and had her turn it in the day she got back. As it turns out, 3 days would have been ok. Because it was 1 day more, I'm harboring a future-gang member and deserve to go to jail! The school officials here are completely insane.
  • Logistics? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phormalitize (1748504) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:01PM (#31188294) Journal
    Going through the data generated by this would require a ton of manpower, I would imagine... so were they actually paying people to spy on students after school hours were over? Or did they just pick kids they really hated and wait for them to do something incriminating? Who came up with this?! It boggles the mind.
  • Kiddie porn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:02PM (#31188308)

    If I were one of those students and under-aged (18), I'd claim that they were guilty of producing child pornography because I had been naked in front of my laptop.

    Hell, I'd go as far as to tell them that I have masturbated in front of it.

    Fuck them and whomever came up with that idea, that includes IT personnel, school administrators, PTA and whoever else have have even a superficial finger in this and haven't said 'no'.

  • by zenchemical (1468505) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:03PM (#31188334)
    One of the most disturbing things in this story is that the school deemed "inappropriate behavior" of the student. I have read the legal briefs and a number of other sources and have not been able to determine what this is. What on earth could a school say about MY child that would be considered inappropriate behaviour? Drinking? No, sorry, covered by privacy rights. The only thing I can think of would be inappropriate use of school equipment. The inappropriateness of anything in the home would be determined by the parent.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lgw (121541)

      The only thing I could think of would be inappropriate use of the school-issued laptop, and that's the one thing the laptop's web cam couldn't see! What's sacry is there there are people (across the political spectrum) who would support the idea that the government would spy on your kids to make sure they never do anything naughty.

  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:03PM (#31188340) Homepage

    This is why you don't want "free" computers from the government, you want the government to NOT take that money away from you to begin with so you can buy your own computer...

    It's shocking, given the general lack of tech competence by school bureaucrat types that they did this and thought they could get away with it. And why aren't there criminal charges? This isn't any different than them putting cameras (potentially) in the bathrooms of minors for the purposes of procuring child pornography.

    This goes far beyond stupid school administrators, this is a blatant case of GOVERNMENT actors out of control, willfully violating the Constitution (and scores of other laws) and they need to be punished. Not just fired, everyone responsible for this need to spend some quality time in a "pound me in the ass" prison.

  • by panoptical2 (1344319) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:03PM (#31188348)
    First, there's no way that you can take illegally obtained "evidence" and punish the student for it. It goes against the 4th amendment, and is unethical on so many levels. I strongly doubt that this case will go too far in court.

    Second, why the hell do they need to spy on students anyway? It's good that they're giving the students laptops, but what they do at home (regardless of all the stupid shit they do) is none of the school's business, nor is it in their jurisdiction. I could make a rant about how parents need to step it up and take better care of their kids, but I'll just sum it up: schools should stay out of parental territories. It's bad for the student, and it's bad for the school.

    Whoever was running this, either the school IT admins or even the higher school administration should be at least suspended pending further review.
    • by rev_sanchez (691443) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @05:18PM (#31191218)
      Schools don't generally punish students for breaking laws, they punish students for breaking rules so if they were thinking detention, suspension, or expulsion then they can generally expect to get away with violating the rights of a student as long as they don't push it too far or descriminate too blatently. If they try to hand iffy evidence over to the police for use in a criminal complaint against a kid then the prosecutor might have some issues with being able to use it but there is very little chance of a school getting in trouble for that kind of thing.

      As for the other point this seems to be final act in a string of monumentally stupid decisions on the part of everyone involved at the school.
      - In theory giving them laptops might save money by requiring fewer expensive text books and it could help out with a couple of classes but in practice it's probably a pretty bad idea because of porn, warez, vandalism, and apparently the terrible judgment of the administrators etc.
      - Getting them laptops with webcams is a terrible idea because kids are dumb enough to take pictures of themselves nude on a school computer without help of the administrators. It's a damn good idea to keep yourself out of the equasion when it comes to pictures and videos of nude children.
      - Setting those laptops up with spying software is beyond stupid unless it was intended to help track down stolen laptops and even then they should have exceptionally tight controls on the use of something like that. I'd say that the bare minimum for using this kind of thing would be a police report filed by the student stating the laptop was stolen and having a police officer present when the software is used.
      - Using the software to track down students skipping school, drinking, looking at porn, doing drugs, having sex, etc. is a horrible idea that is almost certainly criminal.
  • by wandazulu (265281) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:05PM (#31188392)

    What exactly is "improper behavior in the home", and who would believe it was appropriate for a school to accuse the kid of it?

  • No surprise here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawn98685 (687784) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:05PM (#31188396)
    In a society where we are now so ready to trade privacy and other personal liberties for the (often empty) promise of security, it is no surprise at all that this or that government entity should feel no compunction at this gross affront to the privacy of their students and their families. And let's be clear, someone had to have had second thoughts about this, and still they went ahead with this staggeringly stupid plan.

    I hope that not only do the tools responsible for this have their asses handed to them in civil court, I sincerely hope that those asses are then tossed into prison for what has to be a long list of criminal statutes that have been violated.
  • by SirWhoopass (108232) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:11PM (#31188522)

    Beautiful job by the lawyers in this case. They're the only winners. It is a class action where all students in the district are members of the class. Seeking liquidated damages, punitive damages, and attorney fees. Assuming they "win", then these same families will be able to vote themselves a new tax levy to pay for the damages awarded, plus the attorney fees of both sides.

    On the face of it, the school screwed up royally. No doubt about it. But did anyone even try to work this out via another method? Did the school board know about this? Since they are probably parents in the district, my guess is that they did not know.

    I think the board should fire the administration for cause. If they have to pay some lawyers to make that stick, so be it. It would still be less expensive than this class action.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:34PM (#31188986) Homepage Journal

      Actually I would say that somebody should be up on criminal charges. How do they know that my wife or daughter are not changing in that room when they decide to spy. How do I know that they are not recording nude pictures of my children?
      Your right that a class action law case will only help the lawyers. I want to see people go to jail for this.

  • WTF?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ogdenk (712300) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:15PM (#31188578)

    I absolutely DARE some school official to try this with my kids. I don't play the stupid game where they think they have even an ounce of authority over what my child does after stepping off the bus. In fact, if they punished my son for anything he did at home, I'll buy him ice cream for every day he's suspended and encourage him to make noise about it and resist in a smug, non-violent way as well as writing every official, politician and journalist I can find in a 100 mile radius. And then, I'll just be getting started. I'm not afraid of DSS either. I even *gasp* spank my kids.

    The problem is sticking up for yourself and actually exercising your rights gets you branded as a radical, a criminal or a terrorist. This needs to end. I'm willing to live a harder life to live it with my liberty, pride and self-respect intact and I have. I've lost jobs, promotions, etc solely on sticking to values and principals and refusing to do the wrong thing. It's cost me.....dearly in some cases but at least I can honestly say that I'm free. There used to be a lot of people like this.

    The school's job is to pour a bit of knowledge in his head. Teaching morality and values is the parent's job. They need to stay the hell off of my turf and stop overstepping their bounds. Period. What my son's personality is like, his habits, etc is none of their business outside that building.

    • Re:WTF?! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:44PM (#31189188) Homepage

      The problem is today that so many parents are more than happy to turn over teaching morality to someone else - anyone else that might be handy. This includes school, church, fellow students, random adults at the mall, anybody. Anyone that is willing to spend the time.

      Of course, what this results in is a totally borked situation where you have people thinking that as long as they get away with it, anything is OK. And a good portion of the folks that in yesteryear might have helped the parents out either no longer exist or just aren't interested in anymore because of overload and mission creep.

      So if you actually want to try to instill some sort of morality in your children, great. Except unless you accept the idea that you are in the minority you are going to be trying to get everyone out of "parent's territory". A lot of parents, and I'd say most of them today, aren't as interested as you are. So trying to get things changed so it is always only the parent's role is just going to leave us in a much worse situation than we are in now in 20 years.

      It isn't great that schools try to get into this when they are generally incapable of doing a good job. However, in today's world what else is there? TV? Movie stars? Are there any role models that would be good for children to look up to? Is there anyone that has enough interaction with children today to actually be able to provide a role model and some kind of morality? The answer for the most part is that if the parents, grandparents and siblings aren't going to do any "parenting" then the only other actor in the child's life is school. Sucks, doesn't it?

      This doesn't really excuse what is described here, but what we are faced with is some kind of "community parenting" and nobody knows who is doing what or what they should be doing exactly. So you see a lot of experiments. Some of these experiments involve people convincing teenagers to run away from home, become prostitutes and give their new guardian the money. Some get the children into strange cults in the name of "giving the children religion" which the adults seem to think is necessary and important. I'm sure there are other experiments which turn out to be good, worthwhile and constructive. Sadly, you don't see very many of those.

      We're going to have to learn how to manage this because for the most part, the parents aren't going to do it. This is especially true when the parent is a 15 year old girl that saw the father once or twice and managed to get pregnant.

  • by RapmasterT (787426) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#31188648)
    When the media reports a story that sounds utterly beyond the pale of sensibility, take a deep breath and exercise some skepticism.
    I got $100 that says the next few days will see some "clarification" of this story that will make it seem significantly less reprehensible.
    My bet is the kid used the webcam to take some photos that then ended up back at school.
  • by istvaan (66491) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#31188652) Homepage

    ...it's actually quite interesting. I have a feeling that the folks who are looking to see child porn charges pressed might actually get their way. According to the filing, "...it is believed and therefore averred that many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress."

    Seriously, what could have made the school district think that this was, in any way, a good idea? The district itself, the school board, and the superintendent are all listed as defendants. This could be really, really interesting...

  • by TrippTDF (513419) <hiland&gmail,com> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:28PM (#31188824)
    PBS's Frontline had an interesting episode earlier this month - "Digital Nation" [pbs.org] there's a section where a school official is remotely watching what kids are doing from a laptop, and showing a reporter how he does it... it's all inside the confines of the school, but it still scared me.

    At the core of the problem here is that we have an education system that is still stuck in the 19th century.
  • Life Imitates Art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sehlat (180760) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:33PM (#31188950)

    Cory Doctorow's novel, "Little Brother" predicted exactly this happening in schools, where the school-issued laptops were used to monitor student behavior, websurfing, etc. etc.

    I didn't think it would actually happen this soon, however.

  • by TnkMkr (666446) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @03:36PM (#31189028)

    What really discourages me about all of this, is teaching the students to expect and accept this kind of treatment. I realize they are minors and often (necessarily) children's rights are limited or curbed to facilitate time to learn and understand consequences for exercising those rights.

    As I watched my younger brother go through high school I was shocked to hear how the students were given no right to privacy in their lockers or personal vehicles, were under constant surveillance and could be patted down or searched at any time the school felt it wanted to (without parental consent or notification, and without any sort of probable cause requirements). The kids just accepted this and thought it was the way things worked... everywhere. No one told them that this was only possible because of the school setting; no one told them that when they became adults in the real world this sort of treatment from authorities was illegal and a violation of their rights. I don't like what we are teaching our kids, in the name of 'protecting' the kids. I'm afraid the level of scrutiny and personal rights violations that we are subjecting them to is desensitizing them to how wrong it is.

    We wonder why citizens seem to just accept the erosion of their personal liberties, but what should we expect when we've been teaching them to just accept it since they were kids.

  • by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @04:03PM (#31189634) Journal
    really, how intelligent do you have to be to realize that revealing to people that you spied on them at home is something that you should not do.
  • Waterfall (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @04:21PM (#31189984)
    Funny how totalitarian practices by the government slowly trickle down to the local level; cops, school administrators, local government. No surprise at all.
    • Re:Waterfall (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @04:54PM (#31190790)
      Funny how when I pointed out to the school district that their recording video and audio of my daughter on the school bus without her or her parents knowledge or consent was a violation of state and federal wiretap laws, their response was "It must be legal because everybody is doing it!" They even made her sit in the front seat and pointed the camera directly at her, meaning it was only videotaping the first 3 rows of the bus! I'm sure it is just a coincidence that she was the only black person on the bus.

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