The District is also in the final stages of implementing a one-to-one laptop computer initiative at the high schools. Thanks in part to state and federal grants secured by our technology staff during the past few years, every high school student will have their own personal laptop -enabling an authentic, mobile, 21st century learning environment.What came as a surprise to Michael and Holly Robbins, the parents of one student, was that the laptops were to be used to enforce discipline even while the student was at home. As alleged in the family's complaint (PDF), the school was secretly using the laptop's webcams to monitor families in their homes:
On November 11, 2009, Plaintiffs [the Robbins family] were for the first time informed of the above-mentioned capability and practice by the School District when Lindy Matsko ("Matkso"), an Assistant Principal at Harriton High School, informed minor Plaintiff [young Blake Robbins] that the School District was of the belief that minor Plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor Plaintiff's personal laptop issued by the School District. [Emph. added]An unsettling feature of this is that the laptop webcams can transmit any image in front of them of any member of the family or guest in the home. The potential for mis-use is nearly unlimited.
Beware of government's bearing gifts.
For more on this story, see Boing Boing and NBC/Philadelphia.
UPDATE: The school claims it never turned on the cameras except to locate a lost computer.
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