School administrators at a suburban Philadelphia school district wrongly captured thousands of images of students using school-issued laptop computer cameras, according to a CNN report.
But school officials in the Lower Merion School District of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, deny their actions were illegal or inappropriate, although they have admitted that they failed to provide proper notification of their policy to parents and that there were "a substantial number" of photos recovered during their investigation.
All students at the two high schools in the Lower Merion district have access to a laptop computer, which they are allowed to take home upon payment of an insurance fee in case the device is lost or damaged. The school district installed the LANrev webcam security system for use if the laptop is reported lost, missing or stolen.
But Michael and Holly Robbins say the computer their son brought home was not lost or stolen, and their son was photographed more than 400 times, captured in the act of sleeping, text-messaging with friends and -- on one occasion in November -- handling some candies that a school administrator mistook for pills.
An assistant principle called Blake Robbins into her office to confront him about the "pills" -- actually a fruit-flavored chewy candy with a capsule-like shape -- alerting the Robbinses to the webcam use on their son's laptop. They filed suit in February against the school district, its board of directors and the school superintendent, says the report.
Henry Hockeimer, an attorney for the school district, referred CNN to a letter from board president David Ebby posted on the district's Web site for comment about Haltzman's motion. In the letter, to district parents and guardians, Ebby denied that any "spying" had taken place.
The report said that the school district apologized and was "committed to disclosing fully what happened, correcting our mistakes, and making sure that they do not happen again." An investigation conducted by an outside counsel and a computer security expert should be complete "in the next few weeks" and the results would be released.