Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education Portables Privacy

Lower Merion School District Update 367

Posted by kdawson
from the someone-to-watch-over-me dept.
Mike_EE_U_of_I and jargon82 were among a number of readers who sent an update on the Lower Merion School District webcam spying case (see Related Stories for our discussions of the affair over the last couple of months). The school had originally stated that capturing laptop photos in students' homes had only happened 42 times. It turns out what they meant was that there were 42 instances when they began intensive surveillance on the suspected stolen computers. This consisted of (among other things) transmitting a picture from the laptop's webcam every 15 minutes. This may have gone on for weeks. In total, it appears that there were thousands of photos. One of the key administrators involved has been answering all questions about the program by invoking the Fifth Amendment.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Lower Merion School District Update

Comments Filter:
  • Surprise, Surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:54PM (#31873588)
    Pics of the kid sleeping and "half dressed". Who knows what else they have of other kids. They are in deeeeeeep guano.
  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:55PM (#31873590)
    I'm sure they must've caught some of the kids masturbating.
  • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:58PM (#31873640) Homepage

    One of the key administrators involved has been answering all questions about the program by invoking the Fifth Amendment.

    Which, to be fair, is entirely his or her right. Trying to infer guilt from this (tempting though it may be) violates what most of us stand for. Tossing that statement in at the end of the summary seems to be an attempt to imply guilt, though.

    (Which isn't to say that I don't think this program was stupid and criminal.)

  • by Chas (5144) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:59PM (#31873650) Homepage Journal

    One of the key administrators involved has been answering all questions about the program by invoking the Fifth Amendment.

    Hope this asshat understands that pleading the Fifth isn't going to prevent a judge or jury from finding/ruling against him and punishing him.

    "If I don't say anything I'm safe." doesn't work in the real world when you've already been caught.

  • by HarrySquatter (1698416) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:00PM (#31873660)

    Where have you been lately? If you're accused of a crime it clearly means you're already guilty. How dare you go against the mob mentality!

  • by twidarkling (1537077) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:06PM (#31873760)

    I don't think it's an attempt to imply guilt, but more show the cracks in the formerly unified stance of the board et al. Fifth Amendment invocation is different than "no comment," and it shows that some members are starting to think of themselves, rather than the message.

  • by Cheviot (248921) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:10PM (#31873800)

    I have never understood how school districts think.

    On one hand they're terrified of getting sued. They have huge lists of things, even common, ordinary actions, that are not allowed to prevent even the slightest chance of getting sued.

    Then, on the other hand, they take actions that random people on the street realize will cause a lawsuit. Strip searching students for searching for asprin, cancelling proms when gay students wish to attend, secretly spying on students with webcams. What the hell are they thinking?

  • Re:Subvert it... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk&gmail,com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:15PM (#31873852)

    She

    And that is a terrible idea. These people need to pay for what they have done. Prison time and sex offender registration, the whole 9 yards.

    Pleading the fifth isn't going to do shit to protect them if the prosecutors have documented evidence showing what they have done, which it seems they have.

  • WTF (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:18PM (#31873898)

    From TFA:

    An attorney for the district declined to comment last night on the Robbinses' latest motion, except to say that a report due in a few weeks will spell out what the district's own investigation has found.

    "To the extent there is any evidence of misuse of any images, that also will be disclosed," said the attorney, former federal prosecutor Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. "However, at this late stage of our investigation we are not aware of any such evidence."

    Unless he's saying that they weren't taking pictures of students in their private homes after all, what could they possibly have done with the pictures that wouldn't be "misuse"? This guy sounds as crazy as the people running the shool.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:18PM (#31873904) Journal

    Actually, the fifth amendment right being invoked is a balancing mechanism. You're not allowed (legally) to invoke the fifth amendment for any statement that isn't self-incriminating, by definition; therefor, when you refuse to answer questions on those grounds, you indicate that you believe at least one of two things:

    • You're guilty of the crime you're charged with
    • You're guilty of another crime

    At this point, we essentially know you're guilty of something; and by asking the right questions, we can force your answers to necessarily not contain other incriminating evidence of any relevance. In other words, it's dead easy to determine what exactly you're holding back, and prove your guilt.

    However, because of the way the law is intended (not written...), we can't include that as evidence; your invocation of this right is completely off-the-record for purposes of determining guilt. More interestingly, invocation of the fifth amendment when you're not hiding anything self-incriminating could be assessed as perjury; so we again know you're guilty of one thing or another, but can't exactly prove what.

  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:19PM (#31873924)

    I think it was put in there, because the students weren't given the opportunity to excercise that right (nor the 4th amendment). How nice of that administrator to hide behind the very document they tried to shred to pieces.

  • by Bureaucromancer (1303477) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:20PM (#31873934)
    Without speculating on the why or the how of the thing, school districts are chalk full of a particular kind of authoritarian and bureaucratic mindset that does this stuff without consideration of much of anything but immediate control of whatever problem they have at the moment (and more to the point think of that immediate exercise of authority being crucial - they just don't particularly care about the implications even if they are pointed out). The anti lawsuit stuff comes from the poor lawyers who keep having to sort out the messes made; in other words it's two completely separate groups setting those policies and getting the boards sued. Bear in mind I'm not saying all educators do this, any more than all cops are corrupt, but every school, like every police force, has at least one, and that one makes a hell of a mess for everyone.
  • by Burning1 (204959) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:21PM (#31873948) Homepage

    Hope this asshat understands that pleading the Fifth isn't going to prevent a judge or jury from finding/ruling against him and punishing him.

    "If I don't say anything I'm safe." doesn't work in the real world when you've already been caught.

    It does prevent you from getting yourself deeper into shit, however.

  • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:26PM (#31874004) Homepage

    RTFA ... SHE invoked HER Fifth Amendment rights.

    Which will just make things worse for her when the logs are read & the forensics finished.

    No, it will merely mean that she used her Constitutional right. She didn't want to give the opposing attorneys ammo they could shoot her with. They'll have to use evidence and facts instead of her own statements, which doesn't appear to make things too difficult for them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:32PM (#31874078)
    I'm free to infer anything I want about her because she took the fifth. I'm not the judge and I'm not the jury. The constitution doesn't require me to be stupid and ignore something so blatant. Just like I don't have to listen to someone's free speech if I don't want to.
  • by MrOctogon (865301) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:35PM (#31874128)
    No way. The fifth amendment also protects the completely innocent.

    Remember, "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law". The cops have no obligation to use anything in court that may help you, so saying you are innocent serves no purpose.

    Often the best course is to shut up, get a good lawyer and let the evidence speak for itself.
  • Re:Lightbulb? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElSupreme (1217088) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:35PM (#31874130)
    Well you don't have to be guilty. If there was a murder, and I did not commit it, I can refuse to answer questions that may incriminate myself. Like if I were to say I was in the same hotel in the next room that could be used against me in the court of law.

    You should NEVER answer questions when being questioned. NO MATTER WHAT. Get a lawyer and have them speak for you. As they CAN NOT incriminate you.
  • Re:Subvert it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrOctogon (865301) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:36PM (#31874148)
    Exactly. Pleading the fifth does not get you off the hook. It just means they need real evidence to continue.
  • the Fifth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Somegeek (624100) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:39PM (#31874176)

    It's not a "self-incrimination" clause, it is a clause against being a witness against yourself in a criminal case.

    excerpt from the Fifth Amendment:

    "nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself"

    The difference that I'm trying to make is that there doesn't have to be a presumption of self-incrimination to invoke it, just that you don't wish to testify about something involving yourself.

  • by zero_out (1705074) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:39PM (#31874186)
    Don't forget the district's insurer. They'll be paying when judgment is found in the plaintiffs' favor.
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:39PM (#31874192)
    Massive Collective Stupidity by Adults that Should have Known Better! You are grossly overestimating the intelligence of the average school administrator!
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:45PM (#31874284) Homepage

    Who the heck modded this off-topic? The summary brought up taking the Fifth, and that film is absolutely 100% apropos.

    Basically, if you don't take the Fifth, you're an idiot.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:58PM (#31874480)
    Shouldn't school officials deal with problems by the least intrusive means possible? Once the laptop surveillance was enabled, the first few pictures would have established the laptop's location. But they continued to take 400 snapshots over the course of 2 weeks! The only rational explanation for the continued surveillance is pure voyeurism -- and I expect that is what the student's lawyer will argue in court.
  • Re:Lightbulb? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deadstick (535032) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:03PM (#31874558)

    I have to say...seeing school administrators being treated to "zero tolerance" would be very sweet schadenfreude.

    rj

  • by Conchobair (1648793) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:07PM (#31874604)
    It was modded off topic for defending an action of the 'bad guys' in this story. Slashdot modding is just piss poor.

    And before any of you moderators get any ideas about down modding this post, I counter with a xkcd link:
    http://xkcd.com/402/ [xkcd.com]
    It's got cameras in it and this story is about cameras. Now you have to mod me up.
  • by Qzukk (229616) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:23PM (#31874836) Journal

    Gee, threads that drag a joke on too long on slashdot, what a surprise.

  • by belmolis (702863) <billposer@alum. m i t .edu> on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:32PM (#31874966) Homepage

    First, taking home a school laptop in this situation would be a violation of school rules and possibly a civil matter, but not theft. For it to be a theft, there would have to be a reason to believe that the kid intended to keep it.

    Second, the school district's excuse doesn't fit the facts. There's no indication that they didn't know that the kid had the laptop. It was issued to him, and there's no indication that, however they discovered that it wasn't at school, they even bothered to ask him about it. In any case, if they had actually been trying to find a missing laptop, why would they have kept the camera on for two weeks? Did it really take that long to identify the kid? And when he was finally confronted by the school administration, why did they not punish him for improperly taking the laptop home if that was the issue? According to the press accounts, that issue was not raised. Instead, they raised the bogus issue of him popping pills that were actually candy.

  • Re:Lightbulb? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by boristdog (133725) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:33PM (#31874972)

    You should NEVER answer questions when being questioned. NO MATTER WHAT.

    It can never be said enough: ALWAYS follow the above advice.

    Cops and prosecutors are as lazy as anyone else and ten times as suspicious as anyone else. YOU are their first suspect because you have your mouth open and you have some knowledge of the crime.

    NOTHING good comes of talking to them without a lawyer present. NO matter HOW innocent you are.

    I used to be the designated person to report missing property when I worked for the state IT dept. (Probably because I was the whitest, most eloquent and innocent looking person working there.) I've been seriously grilled, accused and even cuffed to a chair once when REPORTING crimes. I had to do this at least once a quarter. I quickly realized why my boss (an older black woman) had me do it instead of her.

  • by natehoy (1608657) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:51PM (#31875236) Journal

    The least intrusive means would have been to call the student's parents and ask if he had the laptop with him. Yes? OK, please pay the insurance fee before he takes it home again, thanks. Issue resolved.

  • by adonoman (624929) on Friday April 16, 2010 @02:56PM (#31875300)
    You've clearly never seen TimeCube.com them.
  • Re:Lightbulb? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by minion (162631) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:00PM (#31875342)

    One of the key administrators involved has been answering all questions about the program by invoking the Fifth Amendment.

    No doubt he was instructed by his lawyer to do so. At least this means that the 'Oh Shit' lightbulb has finally gone off in someones head, someone finally is realizing that this could very easily end up with jail time and a spot on the sex offenders registry.

    Actually, I hope they all end up on the sex offenders registry, and get the book thrown at them... Not because they are sex offenders per say (I doubt their intention was to see naked kids), but they should have thought through the potential issues with photographing the viewer of the laptop screen. I hope the judgment is harsh for two reasons:

    1) Its a gross violation of privacy, the 4th Amendment, and basically human decency.
    2) Things that get you on the sex offenders list needs to be changed - its too easy to have sex with your 17 year old gf when you're 18 and end up as a sex offender. Those laws need to be re-evaluated.

  • Re:Lightbulb? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:01PM (#31875364)

    Um, that's when you are being questioned by an officer of the court while in court, Einstein. When a reporter asks you a question and you 'plead the fifth' it just makes you look like more of a moron than you were before. The fifth amendment is protection in a COURT OF LAW. Your Miranda Rights are protection against the police. Saying 'No comment' is protection against reporters.

  • Re:Lightbulb? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:45PM (#31876028)

    In a police state, without the 5th amendment, the police can very easily coerce confessions for crimes people didn't commit.

    Whereas, with the 5th amendment, that's the District Attorney's job, and the process is called "plea bargain". Huge improvement.

  • Re:Lightbulb? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by guruevi (827432) <evi@@@smokingcube...be> on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:51PM (#31876112) Homepage

    Depends on how hot she is (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debra_Lafave)

  • by clone53421 (1310749) on Friday April 16, 2010 @04:14PM (#31876426) Journal

    The student stole the laptop.

    Really! He stole it?

    Did the school file a police report on the “stolen” item? Did they make a reasonable effort to identify the “thief” and then to promptly inform police of whose door to break down to recover the “stolen” item? Did they contact the poor student whose laptop was “stolen” to inform him that the laptop assigned to him had been “stolen” and to assure him that it would be tracked and recovered?

  • LOLwhat? Where the hell did that come from? Read the fucking page, moron. It's a scam, and has nothing to do with anything you just said. You do not have a 'straw man' bank account that the government set up in your name as collateral. You do have to pay taxes, even if you file all the batshit paperwork suggested.

    But you know what? Forget I said all that, I'm just an evil Statist. Go ahead and pay for the material. File that paperwork and become a sovereign individual. Refuse to pay your taxes and try to cash checks on your straw-man account. I'm sure it will work now, they just needed to work the kinks out of the legal language.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Friday April 16, 2010 @04:40PM (#31876874)
    You know, something like "Those that can do, those that can't teach, and those that can't even teach become school administrators"
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday April 16, 2010 @04:59PM (#31877170)
    That would assume that school officials got into that low-paying, thankless job because they were reasonable people, and not because they were petty, incompetent control freaks who realized that the only people they could successfully push around were young children.
  • by oasisbob (460665) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:44PM (#31879348)

    I saw this story [philly.com] earlier today and now I'm more convinced than ever the whole thing is BS. Look carefully at the photograph (provided by the parents, I might add.) Who goes to sleep with their laptop turned on and the camera pointed right at their face, so that it's perfectly centered in the frame and just well lit enough to show it clearly? If you've ever seen real photographs taken by peeping toms with hidden cameras, they're always grainy and show subjects in unflattering lighting conditions. This picture is just to perfect to be real.

    I think that's a silly argument, the same sort of logic and amateur forensics lead many birthers to the conclusion that Obama wasn't born in Hawaii.

    If this image was fake, I'm sure the judge in the case would be furious. IANAL, but I'm sure that lying to the media about evidence in an ongoing case is somewhat unethical...

    More likely: The image was cropped, maybe by the news organization or the family. Sure, it does have good composition, but to assume that the image is uncropped and too good (and therefore must be fraudulent!) needs a great big jump to conclusions mat.

    Oh and...

    If you've ever seen real photographs taken by peeping toms with hidden cameras, they're always grainy and show subjects in unflattering lighting conditions.

    That might just be the most disturbing thing I've read on Slashdot all day. I'm hoping you simply didn't consider your words carefully...

  • by tftp (111690) on Friday April 16, 2010 @08:55PM (#31879412) Homepage

    Who goes to sleep with their laptop turned on and the camera pointed right at their face

    Anyone who placed his laptop near the bed, was reading, and drifted to sleep at some point.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Friday April 16, 2010 @09:31PM (#31879616) Homepage

    So, using the safety and comfort of modern societies (and lying to oneself that you're "sovereign") plus the goal of contributing back as little as possible.

fortune: cannot execute. Out of cookies.

Working...