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Students Spied On With School Issued Laptops

Suit: School used its laptops to spy on students at home

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

Lower Merion School District officials said the laptops “contain a security feature intended to track lost, stolen and missing laptops,” and that the feature was deactivated Thursday. Angry students already had put tape on their laptop cameras and microphones.

Sophomore Tom Halpern described students as “pretty disgusted,” and noted his class recently read “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” the George Orwell classic that coined the term “Big Brother.”

“This is just bogus,” said Halpern, 15, of Wynnewood, as he left Harriton High School on Thursday with his taped-up computer. “I just think it’s really despicable that they have the ability to just watch me all the time.”

The school district 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.

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