Apparently, Lower Merion Township School District thought it would be ok for them to watch the students whom they provided laptops through those laptops’ webcams. While at home. A vice principal disciplined a student for actions viewed on a laptop webcam in the student’s home. Not surprisingly, parents are now suing the school district. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
A webcam does not show any part of what a person is doing on their computer. It does not show administration what is on the screen, or what software is being run — that can be accomplished via remote management software that is commonly employed by corporations and educational institutions for legitimate asset protection and workplace employee monitoring. What a webcam shows is the user, and perhaps their surrounding environment. That environment, in this case the home, is not school property. It is the domain of the individuals residing within it, and the fact that it is their home offers those individuals some very strong constitutional protections against prying eyes. The fact of the matter is that the school wanted to be able to watch its students, even outside the classroom. Equipment protection was merely an excuse, and any decent lawyer will be able to destroy that argument by more eloquently stating what I just said.
On a related note, as a former Lower Merion taxpayer who has recently moved away, I am glad that this mis-use of my tax money has been exposed, and I hope that all the guilty parties are punished to the fullest extent of the law, insomuch as such a thing is possible in a civil case.