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Pa. suit says schools spied via laptops

Associated Press / February 19, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA - A suburban Philadelphia school district used school-issued laptop webcams to spy on students at home, potentially catching them and their families in compromising situations, a family argues in a federal lawsuit.

Lower Merion School District officials can activate the webcams without students’ knowledge or permission, the suit said. Plaintiffs Michael and Holly Robbins suspect the cameras captured students and family members as they undressed and in other embarrassing situations, according to the suit.

Tom Halperin, 15, a sophomore from Wynnewood, Pa., said students are “pretty disgusted’’ and have started putting masking tape over their computer webcams and microphones.

The accusations amount to potentially illegal electronic wiretapping, said Witold J. Walczak, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania director.

The school district could not confirm whether it has the ability to activate the webcams remotely, a spokesman said.