Schools in a suburban Philadelphia neighborhood are being accused of spying through webcams. It is part of a new federal lawsuit that says school officials can activate the cameras remotely without knowledge. In fact, the captured images of Harriton High School students and their families from home is a serious situation.
Families learned of the alleged webcam images when an assistant principal spoke to a student about inappropriate behavior at home. When this was brought to their attention, the district claimed that the cameras are only used to track lost or stolen laptops.
Michael and Holly Robbins have told the court, they suspect the cameras may have captured other students and their families in humiliating situations, including while they were undressed. Officials were able to activate the devices without the knowledge or permission of students.
The parents have not accepted the explanation on how the school knew that their 15-year-old son had engaged in improper behavior at home. They have alleged the official produced a photograph from the webcam embedded in their son’s personal laptop. Officials later confirmed with the parents that they had the ability to activate cameras remotely when they are connected to the Internet.
The improper behavior was not specified in the suit. However, other children have since covered their Internet cameras to prevent further spying. Some parents won’t even allow their children to bring home to laptops.
Spying On Harriton High Students
I can understand that the school district uses the cameras for security reasons. However, if the laptop was never reported stolen, otherwise this is a case of privacy invasion. It becomes a privacy and spy issue when the parents and the student have no knowledge that they’re being watched.
To me, this is no different than a “Peeping Tom,” or a stalker. The student’s behavior in their own home is the parent’s responsibility and not the school. This is why we have privacy laws.