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PA School Defends Web-Cam Spying As Security Measure, Denies Misuse 364

Posted by timothy
from the great-and-powerful-oz's-big-lie-technique dept.
tekgoblin writes "The Lower Merion School District of Pennsylvania was recently accused of privacy invasion. Now the school has released an official response to the allegations. According to the school, the security feature was installed in the laptops as an anti-theft device and was not intended to invade privacy. The software that was installed would take a photo of the person using the laptop after it was stolen to give to the authorities. Now this may be what it was intended for, but it seems that someone didn't get the memo." The district's claim that it "has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever" doesn't square with the allegations which set off this whole storm. And if there was nothing wrong with it, why does the school say it won't start using the snooping feature again without "express written notification to all students and families"?
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PA School Defends Web-Cam Spying As Security Measure, Denies Misuse

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  • by peragrin (659227) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:32PM (#31221556)

    The school denies Misuse, however they have photographic evidence of a child committing inappropriate behavior in the child's bedroom.

    Therefore the School has already committed a misuse of said camera's. The real question is why hasn't the school fired the people involved. there was no evidence of any laptops being stolen therefore the system shouldn't have been turned on to begin with. The only reason the camera's were turned on would be for misuse.

    So the school district is lying to cover themselves. They could get out of this much easier if they simply fired a couple of people and blamed those directly responsible, and their bosses for the policy.

  • Riiight. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nhytefall (1415959) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:34PM (#31221582) Journal
    Webcams hardly equal a lojack. Seems to me, this whole incident is nothing more than the reflection of our society's values of surveilance absent privacy, all in the name of security of course. As is said on The Simpsons, "Won't someone think of the children?!?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:35PM (#31221598)

    If cartoons are CP, then fuzzy grey images out real kids are definitely CP.

    Double standards suck. We need consistency.

  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:35PM (#31221600) Homepage
    The district denies having activated the camera, so before anyone gets fired for just an accusation they should probably figure out if someone WAS lying. If the student took a picture of themselves say, smoking marijuana, brought the computer to school, and then while hooked up to the network the school saw it, that's a bit more of a grey area.
  • Sounds Half-Assed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:37PM (#31221618) Homepage

    If you wanted an anti-theft system, why not buy LoJack? It has to be at least as reliable as turning on the camera. Look: in order to catch the thief with a camera, you'd either have to recognize them or the location in which they're sitting. What are the odds of that working out for you? (Yes, I know it has happened before. But out of how many attempts?)

    I'll bet that the district could even have gotten a bulk, educational discount on such software. They might even have spent less than it would cost to pay a person to troll through the camera images over a few years, even.

  • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:38PM (#31221632) Homepage

    The district's claim that it "has not used the tracking feature or web cam for any other purpose or in any other manner whatsoever" doesn't square with the allegations which set off this whole storm.

    You're right. It's he-said, she-said. But since the school district does have controls in place to protect against abuses (only two people have access to the function, and this access is logged), and because I'd be very, very surprised if the district was foolish enough to act in the way that the suit alleges, I'm siding firmly on the side of "someone needs to provide some proof before I condemn anyone" - something the sensationalist media seems to be trying very hard doesn't happen.

    Now this may be what it was intended for, but it seems that someone didn't get the memo - or so the plaintiffs allege. ...why does the school say it won't start using the snooping feature again without "express written notification to all students and families"? I don't think it indicates anything at all that the district will more clearly communicate the existence and usage patterns of the software before they activate it again. The district has successfully used the software to recover 18 of 42 lost laptops, so if anything it seems like they might need even stronger software than this (though this is still $18,000 worth of taxpayer money the software has saved). Parents and students were surprised to know of its existence, and the district feels in retrospect that whatever communication was made in this regard was insufficient. That sounds like a reasonable action to me.

    I still find it far more plausible that the student took a photo himself and sent it to his buddies, than that one of two people with access to the system abused it, then exposed their abuse to a principal (who is not one of the two with access), who decided instead of doing something about the abuse, to then further abuse it themselves, and expose the abuse to the student and the student's parents. Sorry, one kid being kinda stupid is far more likely than two adults being very stupid.

  • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:41PM (#31221658) Homepage

    Why does it not occur to you that perhaps the student took the photo and emailed it to their buddies?

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:41PM (#31221662) Homepage Journal
    Because for some strange reason Americans are squeamish about everything sexual, and as a result have the highest rates of STDs in the G-7.....
  • by feepness (543479) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:42PM (#31221674) Homepage

    Because for some strange reason Americans are squeamish about everything sexual, and as a result have the highest rates of STDs in the G-7.....

    I can also see the case for that being proof of the opposite...

  • by anorlunda (311253) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:46PM (#31221700) Homepage

    The news reports say that the cameras were activated in this case plus 42 other cases. If the school is telling the truth they should have documentary evidence of claims of theft or loss for all 43 cases.

    If they can document all 43 cases, they're still in hot water. If they can't then they're caught in yet another lie.

  • by ae1294 (1547521) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:46PM (#31221704) Journal

    I'm so sorry but we need to treat you and your cohorts just like we treat everyone else who is alleged, on television, of being guilty of a crime which means we will convict you, throw you in jail and make sure the other inmates know what you did...

    It's only fair, so be sure to enjoy your daily beatings and o, the rapes.

  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by legio_noctis (1411089) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:47PM (#31221706)

    A few days ago, most of us were still waiting to see if this story was in fact exaggerated and/or untrue: what about the school's side of the story?

    But it appears that the initial impressions were correct: the school is in fact just scrabbling around for excuses ("It was a security feature, promise!"). This suggests that there was in fact no good reason or alternate story.

    Which is good, because I can go and get properly angry now.

  • by Luthair (847766) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:52PM (#31221750)
    Because if the student took it, then why would it ever have come out that the school was able to remotely activate the webcam & microphone?
  • by QCompson (675963) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:57PM (#31221790)

    maybe while the feature was introduced for all the right reasons (recovering lost/stolen laptops), they're admitting that students/parents should've been notified? i.e. they're admitting they made a mistake, but denying that they are pedophiles who used this "feature" to spy on acne-faced teenage boys masturbating to vogue magazine.

    Now that's just ridiculous! I highly doubt teenage boys are masturbating to vogue magazine. Especially with the school-issued laptop computer (i.e. gateway to the universe of porn) right in front of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @03:58PM (#31221796)

    You are only hearing one side of the story here. The side the family wants to push to get a pay day from the school district.

    What if the student lied and said the laptop was stolen? The school district hasn't said anything publicly about this because of a lawsuit. Could you blame them?

    Lets pretend there was a world where the student or family reported the laptop as stolen. The school activates antitheft software to recover the taxpayers property. They find that the student and family still have the laptop. Instead of owning up to the theft they LIE and sue the school to get out of what they have done.

  • Keep it simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby&comcast,net> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:01PM (#31221816)

    If they started using the cameras to randomly take pictures of students than the school is looking at a well deserved lawsuit. Without question this is a violation of any number of laws. If the web cam pictures were taken in response to a lost or stolen laptop, than this entire thing has been much ado about nothing and the lawsuit is without merit. The only question of note on this is if the web-cams were activated for tracking anything other than lost or stolen laptops. If this kid was incidentally caught because he stole the laptop and was captured when they used the webcam to track the laptop than it changes the entire story.

    Certainly people have occasionally tracked down their stolen laptop, iphone or whatnot by remotely activating the cameras before. Such stories have run on Slashdot before and the consensus has always been along the lines of /hoot!/ The fact that the tracking is done by a third party shouldn't change the view that it's ok try to recover your lost or stolen property. This is a very different issue than routine monitoring software that monitors the usage of the laptops. That kind of software is used by employers and schools on a daily basis, and I've seen some people mix up the two issues when they are unrelated.

  • by tftp (111690) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:04PM (#31221842) Homepage

    The district has successfully used the software to recover 18 of 42 lost laptops, so if anything it seems like they might need even stronger software than this (though this is still $18,000 worth of taxpayer money the software has saved)

    Each $1,000 laptop is insured by parents, with $55/yr premium and $100 deductible. 2,800 laptops netted $154K, enough to fully replace 154 laptops every year. But they lost only 42, and over more than a year. So the school should just remove all the security software and let the insurance deal with it.

    I still find it far more plausible that the student took a photo himself and sent it to his buddies

    Then you need to explain how the remote webcam activation thing was claimed, and was true (at least to the capability of doing it.) Clairvoyance is not the answer :-)

  • Re:Security (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mellon (7048) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:08PM (#31221878) Homepage

    Yup. The irony here of course is that by creating this kerfuffle, they've completely eliminated any actual security the webcam system might have given them. Now everybody knows that these laptops have hidden cameras, so they'll just tape over them. So there's little chance that the cameras will ever actually be used to identify any thief now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:09PM (#31221884)

    Does anyone know what software was being used? Is this internal software provided by Apple? Is the software manufacturer just a culpable as the school district?

  • by Bman21212 (1067680) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:12PM (#31221924)

    This is not simply sensationalism. There are broad reaching consequences of having an undisclosed program that can take pictures remotely. The main problem is undisclosed.

    And why are you so trusting of authority? Yes people don't normally do intentional things to harm themselves, and this gets better as they age and get more mature. But many people are not fluent in technology. They don't know the problems that arise.
    I am not surprised that technology got abused by those in power. Come on, it's slashdot, this isn't the first time we've heard of something happening that way.

    If the student took the picture an emailed it to his friends we would not have this case. The administration would say "we received this information from an email from another student/teacher/parent." The case would simply not be there because the administration could easily defend itself.

    The school had the proper safeguards to prevent too much abuse, but it looks like the safeguards were not followed, thus making them useless. The administration could easily open up the logs and show that every situation was a proper use, except for one. That would be bad, but much more understandable. People make mistakes. But when the mistakes become patterns true problems arise.

    This isn't sensationalism, this is a real problem. It's blown out of proportion because the only ones that are affected are those in the school district, but at the same time it teaches some others privacy controls, and that is a much needed lesson.

  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:16PM (#31221946)
    OK, I feel bad now for not saying in that post that I doubt that's what the kid was doing. The press certainly didn't do him any favors by carefully revealing everything in this story except for the actual "private act" he got busted for. Even so, it's pretty obvious that you wouldn't want to have a laptop from this school in the same room with you unless your pants were on.
  • by sizzzzlerz (714878) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:17PM (#31221956)

    and we promise not to ever do it again.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:19PM (#31221976)

    One almost wishes it had been masturbation. The Child Pornography charges would have given this entire case some serious teeth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:21PM (#31222000)

    We need consistency.

    Hahaha, that'll never happen.

    When a drawn cartoon child has more rights than some humans, you know something is wrong.

    Sadly, double-standards are what makes the world tick.
    Some are beneficial to society, but, sadly, some of them are just downright retarded in every sense of the word.

  • by vlm (69642) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:24PM (#31222020)

    and why were they watching in the first place?

    Trolling for cheerleaders changing clothes, obviously.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:28PM (#31222054)

    The school denies Misuse, however they have photographic evidence of a child committing inappropriate behavior in the child's bedroom.

    Therefore the School has already committed a misuse of said camera's. The real question is why hasn't the school fired the people involved. there was no evidence of any laptops being stolen therefore the system shouldn't have been turned on to begin with. The only reason the camera's were turned on would be for misuse.

    That's not true. The student reported his laptop missing at the beginning of the day, and received a loaner laptop from the school for that day. He failed to turn it back in to the school before leaving for the day, which was the policy. The school activated the system because the student had informed them of a missing laptop. There is no misuse in this instance, except for the student not following the policy that he was supposed to follow.

    Even if you deny that this is what happened, it still shows your logic is flawed. If the school denies misuse, and they have a picture from the laptop's camera, then either they used the system correctly (and you have your facts wrong), or they are lying.

  • Re:Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skapare (16644) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:31PM (#31222074) Homepage

    And their response is essentially "We didn't do anything wrong and we promise not to do it again".

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:32PM (#31222092)

    whoosh. The idea is: sex will happen anyway. The choice is between being educated (and hopefully at least a bit mature) about it, or the wild west US approach.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:36PM (#31222120)

    I don't know that I would hope that any damages are awarded in the case, it simply costs their friends and neighbours who are tax payers for the board, rather than the individuals responsible for the abuse (of power).

    Yep, I would much rather see everyone involved - especially the decision makers - convicted of some sort of pedophile related sex crime. That will effectively take them out of circulation and will prevent them from ever again being a position of authority where they can exercise their stupidity on others. If zero tolerance on drugs is good enough for the kids then society's zero tolerance on anything that can be remotely confused for pedophilia is good enough for the administrators.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:40PM (#31222152) Homepage

    Let's see if the school actually produces the photographic evidence in court (even if WE are not allowed to see it for privacy reasons). If they do, the defense will have the right to know where that evidence came from and how the school acquired it.

  • by nahdude812 (88157) * on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:41PM (#31222172) Homepage

    No, the media reports that the plaintiff contradicts it. It's right there in the title of the article you linked: "Student says official mistook candy for drugs on webcam pic"

  • Re:One possibility (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:41PM (#31222178)

    Keep in mind that the school is still probably legally bound from discussing the specifics due to their privacy obligations to the student.

  • Re:Security (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dimeglio (456244) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @04:45PM (#31222212)

    Once upon a time I could have said, have the school buy Apple laptops. Seems that's no longer a deterrent. Oh, I know, how about dumb laptops? They need to be connected to the school's terminal server to provide any applications. Not sure there is such a thing and they are likely more expensive but it would likely make it less interesting for people to steal and also never be obsolete.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @05:08PM (#31222492)

    The scary part is in the summary: the people in charge believe they have done no wrong and are doing what's best. It's like a sociopath who thinks the ends justify the means and never believes his or her actions are wrong or could hurt anyone. These are the most dangerous people that free societies must be vigilant against.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @05:11PM (#31222532)

    The FBI is now involved in the investigation:

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=31004

    There is a lot of information out there on this. To get the point across to the school administration, I would go in and make sure they understand this as I issue the search warrant:

    Any pictures found of these kids in a state of undress will result in prosecution of the individuals involved as sex offenders which will result in charges, prosecution and loss of job and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

    Once that is out there, I would think they might be hesitant to use it as much as they have been.

    To quote one article:

    The Lower Merion School District, in response to a suit filed by a student, has acknowledged that webcams were remotely activated 42 times in the past 14 months, but only to find missing, lost or stolen laptops — which the district noted would include "a loaner computer that, against regulations, might be taken off campus."

    Sounds like they need a better tracking system/process INSIDE of the school.

  • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @05:37PM (#31222798)

    They (the school people) just assumed the capsule/candy was an illegal drug -- they didn't even give him credit for possibly taking medication.

  • by Hucko (998827) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @05:55PM (#31222970)

    I do grunt IT work at a school* and any laptops that are returned are not even checked to see if there is an OS on the computer. They are just wiped and prepped for the next user, ad infinitum.

    We have been instructed that unless we are told by judicial authorities (i.e., above the principal) we are not to browse the data on the computer. Anything that would warrant our examination of the data would be handed over to the police to do anyway. If it has been returned and the user comes back asking for data, we are to report the computer has already been wiped, and why didn't they have a backup? (Politely and professionally.) We should not ever put ourselves in a legal position where we could accidentally have come across suspicious data. Whether your organisation owns the laptop or you are performing services on someones personal laptop^, that is the only way to behave ethically and professionally unless you are undertaking the action under advised investigations.

    We only look at the user data when requested by the user, using their login. Technically, we should only be guiding the user to do what they are requesting with their data, but of course that is too slow...

    So ethically it still remains there is something dodgy about the schools side of the story if it was 'accidentally found'. It may be legal, but I wouldn't want to work at that school; it would make me dirty.

    *Australian, so maybe there are caveats.
    ^On someone personal laptop, a professional would take an image of the hdd/s to restore in a pinch. I mostly meet that standard.

  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:06PM (#31223078)

    I hope the student ends up able to retire on the punitive damages he gets

    OK, I'm risking being burnt at the stake her but what the heck.

    I speak for Europe and possibly for a whole lot of other countries outside of northern America. Over here we try and put stuff into perspective and not to overreact. I agree that the student in question's privacy was harmed. In fact that's the main point here. So, with respect to damages, all pupils that were spied upon are entitled to some. The fact that the surveillance officer made a judgment error can happen and should be forgivable or constitute a minor punishment.

    But why should the student be able to retire on the punitive damages he gets? Sure, the whole situation stinks but an apology and maybe a box of candy should suffice as punitive damages. You seem to covet a juridical system where you're extremely happy someone make a minor error. Already with minor arguments the winner thrives and the looser parishes.

    I'm not saying we all should become tree hugging hippies but I sure advocate right perspective, common sense and less fear of doing something wrong.

  • by shentino (1139071) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:18PM (#31223212)

    They're not retarded most of the time.

    When the folks in power make them it's often to make sure they stay in charge.

    Example: white folks getting life and blacks getting the needle in murder trials during the days of racism.

  • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:52PM (#31223532)

    So then why was a student reprimanded for their in home behaviour with a picture from the webcam used as evidence?

    The other question is: What the fuck business is it of the school's what they are doing outside of school anyway? If the school officials think their authority is so broad, they should not even be allowed around children.

  • by Jedi Alec (258881) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:59PM (#31223580)

    Isn't the FBI investigating the situation? If laws have been broken, punish the wrongdoers the right way, through criminal proceedings. Redistributing what effectively are tax dollars anyway doesn't make any sense, especially when a big chunk ends up with the lawyers anyway.

  • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @06:59PM (#31223588)

    The student said on MSNBC he was caught with Mike n' Ikes (or some kind of candy) on camera, and they believed he had illegal pharmaceutical drugs.

    Even if he was toking the reefer while getting getting blown by two thirteen year-old girls, it is none of their fucking business. This would be like a cop barging into your place, having a peak, and saying "Okay. Nothing illegal going on. Have a nice day."

  • by toadlife (301863) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @07:04PM (#31223620) Journal

    Example: white folks getting life and blacks getting the needle in murder trials during the days of racism.

    Sadly, race still has much to do with who gets the death penalty today. (Source [deathpenaltyinfo.org])

  • Re:Security (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @07:12PM (#31223684) Journal

    Now everybody knows that these laptops have hidden cameras, so they'll just tape over them.

    No, odds are good that taping over the hidden cameras will be a punishable offense. Perhaps it can be conspiracy to engage in theft, considering their given lame excuse for the camera.

    So there's little chance that the cameras will ever actually be used to identify any thief now.

    Odds are good, only idiot thieves would have been caught anyways...and they would have likely been caught anyways. Ie, idiot thieves would neither (a) wipe the HD (and the spying software) nor (b) boot from a clean medium to investigate the laptop's data (and hence not run/load the spying software). Of course, if you're not wiping the HD, you're likely to be caught at some point with significant evidence that the laptop you sold/are using is stolen. And if you're simply running the built-in software, odds are good that you'll visit some website, be auto-logged in, and in your snooping into the persons account be pretty traceable by your IP address.

    Now, if they had some sort of hardware GPS device that could be remotely activated and give the GPS unit's location, that'd be a whole other story. Of course, a thief could still potentially rip out the GPS device (presuming it's not well integrated into the motherboard), but it'd be a lot less obvious that a school would pay for the expense of an always-available GPS and would be a much better deterrent to *announce* the damn device. No, the odds are good that school officials presumed they owned the laptop and could remotely access the webcam whenever they pleased.

    That they would later try to justify it with some school-wide policy or point out specific misdeeds to justify it really doesn't cover the obvious issues that (a) a thief could likely be another minor student and (b) you could catch said thief in a sexual act (age of consent is 16 in Pennsylvania). In short, the simple fact that the produced images from a hidden camera are such a hot bed for possibly criminal action (I mean, what part of "hidden camera" and "school" sounds like a good idea?) really shows a severe lack of forethought at minimum and at worst a casual massive overextension of authority. I mean, what sort of legal predicament would an actual full-time, legal guardian be in for placing a hidden camera in their 16 year old child's bedroom?

  • by Artifakt (700173) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @07:20PM (#31223768)

    At this point, US society seems increasingly divided into a class structure, and some classes can expect only token punishments at most, while others are seeing serious oppression. We have cases where minors are charged with sex related offenses for being each other's victims, 12 year old girls arrested for coloring on desktops, and people are still in prisons years after DNA testing has proved they were wrongly convicted.
        So what's proportionate? Here, the main suspects draw several times the average pay for American workers, and are given special trust and authority by law. They falsely accused someone of something which could in turn be treated as a felony, one that has mandatory minimum prison time as part of the sentencing, if some DA had acted no more unfairly than they did. If it's just to give two 15 year old minors lifetime on a sex offender's list for sending nude pictures of each other back and forth, then proportionate justice in this case is feeding the mature adults involved into a chipper-shredder, barbaric and inhuman as that would be. Any penalty that would be sufficient to make these people stop thinking they are specially entitled would also be draconian.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @07:29PM (#31223838)

    Any possible excuses the school district can claim go up in smoke with the simple fact that they collected a still image on a laptop that was not reported as stolen. They basically took a picture with their own hand in the cookie jar. Unless they can prove that a claim was filed on the laptop in question, they are fucked, not to put too fine a point on it.

    The whole idea of enabling a remote cam capability on a laptop in use by a child is disgusting on it's face. I don't care what 'benefits' they claim it produces. They could just as easily collect IP info, find the provider who owns those IP's, and track it down via that route.

    The idiot that thought this was a 'great security feature' needs a little 'special time' in a local penitentiary along with any complicit school board members.

  • by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel@NoSpam.bcgreen.com> on Sunday February 21, 2010 @07:48PM (#31223974) Homepage Journal
    We're squeamish about oral sex (i.e. talking publicly about it). This leaves kids participating in sexual activity blindly (OK. Adults too). Lack of knowledge doesn't mean lack of action, just lack of intelligent action.

    Unfortunately, some people seem to think that lack of training about the issues around sex will discourage kids from participation in sex that has been the norm since long before we understood enough to talk about (or, for that matter, even had language to talk about it). It's a process that only works for people who confuse belief and hope with reality.

    I think that this explains why some of these same people confuse things like fantasy gaming with real devil worship. ..... and it explains why states that have the most restrictions about sex education also tend to have the most STDs and teen pregnancies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2010 @07:51PM (#31223998)

    When I was in highschool, I had considered doing something a bit more insideous, and thankfully I never did it:

    Fill a bunch of fishing weight bags (conveniently the correct size for a hit of cocaine) with powdered sugar, and leave a trail of them going into the assistant principle's office, then chop up some lines of the stuff on one of those magnetic locker mirrors on his desk.

    Our Assistant principal was continually roaming the halls looking for even the most minor of infractions (like people holding hands-- Oh my! They are practically having sex in the hallway! Gotta put a stop to that!-- yeah. That kind of thing.) to write a detention slip over, so doing this while he was distracted elsewhere would have been quite easy to do.

    This was before the era of continual camera surveillance in the hallways, so it would have been very easy to accomplish.

    I must admit though, a part of me REALLY wishes I had done it...

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @08:23PM (#31224308) Journal

    >>>When a drawn cartoon child has more rights than some humans, you know something is wrong.

    I've never understood countries that make drawings illegal. So what if a picture shows some boy boffing a girl? There's no victims, therefore no rights violated, therefore no crime.

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @08:33PM (#31224378)

    It wasn't a secret that there was security software on the laptops. Parents and students knew about it, they just weren't required to sign an acknowledgement

    From LMSD Superintendent's post @ 2/19/10 [lmsd.org]

    3. Were students and families explicitly told about the laptop security system?
    No. There was no formal notice given to students or their families. The functionality and intended use of the security feature should have been communicated clearly to students and families.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @08:33PM (#31224384) Journal

    >>>I had always hoped that naive, alarmist authorities were only a high school thing. Then bam, 9/11, and here we are.

    In nearly every place and every time period, "leader" and "asshole" as synonyms. That's why the concept of Constitutions & Bills of Rights were invented - to keep the assholes/leaders from causing too much damage by limiting their powers to only a few, select areas.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @08:45PM (#31224514) Journal

    No, no, no.

    I find that computer interfere with learning, rather than help, and it isn't worht he expense of spending ~$500 per kid for a machine that will have to be replaced every 4-5 years. That's about $15000 tosses away during the kid's career, times ~300 graduates per year per school.

    No wonder our national debt is so ridiculously high. We spend money like we have no sense, and soon it will bankrupt us, just like anybody else who can't stop swiping the credit card.

  • Re:Security (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flyneye (84093) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @11:55PM (#31225990) Homepage

    Besides that they best change the statement "express written notification to all students and families" to "express written PERMISSION of all students and families." Else they live with bloodthirsty lawyers on the local school boards doorstep, hounding their every breath.
    There are several alternatives that could be taken before right to be secure in your home is violated.
    1. Insure the laptops.
    2. Sign the laptops out as the responsibility of the present holder.
    3. Leave school materials at school and don't expect it to be part of home work curriculum, just to make school teachers lives easier at public expense.
            I hope the courts make a bloody example of them.

  • by anyGould (1295481) on Sunday February 21, 2010 @11:58PM (#31226026)

    And furthermore, WTF is their problem with masturbation?

    What are you talking about?

    The kid wasn't choking kojak - he was eating candy. Dumbass on the other side of the camera thought a piece of Mike & Ike candy was an illegal drug. Who knows what kind 'zero-tolerance' befuddled mindset lets them decide that something that looks like a pill was "illegal" via just a webcam shot...

    Which brings us back to the original issue - if the "security system" is only used in the case of theft,

    • What cause did they have to activate it in the first place? (the student obviously hasn't reported it stolen - he has it)
    • Assuming for the moment that they did believe that it was stolen (and were thus justified in turning on the feature), why did they continue observing once they saw the student on-camera (hence proving he is in possession)?
    • And assuming further that they happened to turn on the camera, right at the moment he was doing whatever he's not supposed to be doing, since it's obviously not related to theft of the equipment, on what grounds did they decide they had authority to punish the child?

    The whole thing stinks, IMO.

  • by gillbates (106458) on Monday February 22, 2010 @12:05AM (#31226074) Homepage Journal

    Why? Because if some administrator does not have "... his poor judgment cost the district millions..." in his performance review, others will be inclined to do the same, and worse.

    How, exactly, does one get one's privacy back - once it has been violated?

    Imagine, for a moment, if naked images of you (or your daughter) showed up on the internet? Sure, you could sue the school, but she (or you) will have to deal with it for the rest of your life. Did you know there's a statutory limit on the amount of money for which a school district can be liable? It's something like $150k - far less than the worth of someone's dignity.

    Imagine the emotional consequence faced by your daughter, if every time she got into an argument someone posted naked pictures of her as revenge. Imagine if the entire school called her dirty names because of it.

    And what does she get in return? Enough to pay for college, at maximum. Nevermind the fact that she might never marry, or might have self-esteem issues for the rest of her life. By law, her body is only worth $150k, or about a year of MBA salary.

    Sometimes, the consequences of an action are so severe that the punishment must act as a deterrent to others. There is real, permanent harm in invading someone's privacy, especially when the law limits the liability of the infringer. Sure, watching someone eat candy is relatively innocuous. However, it is only a matter of chance that the interlopers didn't watch students undressing, or in other embarrassing situations. And who knows - maybe they did and are hoping investigators don't find out.

    We don't have laws against speeding because speeders always cause accidents. Rather, we realize that excessive speed contributes to accidents, and increases the damage when accidents occur. Likewise, if we treat this incident as a mere lapse of judgment, we open the door to further abuses. Worse, because of the legislative limit on damages, it is entirely possible that the harm can never be undone or restituted.

    Incidentally, a recent study (2005?) found that public school employees are 7 (seven) times more likely to sexually abuse children than clergy. The reason why these incidents don't often make the press is because the judgments are limited in many states to $150k, rather than the millions that the church had to pay out. It kind of makes me sick that school officials enjoy a legal kind of immunity for which the Church could only hope.

  • by Nigel Stepp (446) on Monday February 22, 2010 @12:14AM (#31226136) Homepage

    I think "should have been" implies that it was, in fact, not communicated at all. "Should" has slightly different meanings depending on your brand of english, which may be a source of confusion.

  • by Maestro4k (707634) on Monday February 22, 2010 @02:42AM (#31226800) Journal

    But why should the student be able to retire on the punitive damages he gets? Sure, the whole situation stinks but an apology and maybe a box of candy should suffice as punitive damages. You seem to covet a juridical system where you're extremely happy someone make a minor error. Already with minor arguments the winner thrives and the looser parishes.

    Simple, because the school system's already shown a serious, possibly criminal (the FBI's investigating, also the state's Attorney General), lack of judgment in this case. If they're able to get off with just a small slap on the wrist, they will not learn a damn thing, and it won't be long before they "forget" what happened and do something equally hair-brained that violates more student's civil rights. It may just be an American thing (although I doubt it, stupidity knows now boundaries), but these type of people won't change their ways unless they're punished severely, and the only real method the court has do to that is to impose punitive fines. That those fines go to the plaintiff is justifiable because the plaintiff took the initiative, and risk, to go to court to try and get the school system to stop their illegal behavior.

    So it's not that we think this kid deserves such a huge reward necessarily, it's that we know the school system has to get nailed HARD for any real change to take place.

    On a related note, I doubt any of us are holding out any real hope that criminal charges will be brought against anyone for this. Or at the very least, even if there are some charges brought, it won't be against the real culprits like the school board members, the administration, etc. It'll be against some scapegoat the school system decides to pin the crimes on and throw under the bus. So only a high punitive damage award will change the system, and it sounds like it needs serious, serious change.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:21AM (#31228944) Homepage Journal

    So what if a picture shows some boy boffing a girl? There's no victims, therefore no rights violated, therefore no crime.

    So what if I smoke a joint? There's no victims, therefore no rights violated, therefore no crime. When did law ever follow logic? There may be more irrational laws than rational ones.

The use of anthropomorphic terminology when dealing with computing systems is a symptom of professional immaturity. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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