Pa. School District Settles Webcam Spying Case

Lora Bentley

When word got out in February that a Pennsylvania high school student was suing the Lower Merion School District and certain administrators for violating his privacy by "spying" on him via a laptop webcam, observers were shocked-first that the school district would do such a thing, and then that those involved didn't see the problem.


A little background from my previous post:

Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District alleges that the webcams [on school-issued laptops] captured images of the students and their families [outside of school] in various states of undress and "other compromising situations," and that "the issue came to light when [the student] was disciplined at school for improper behavior in his home, and given a still shot taken from the webcam as evidence of that behavior."

The problem, aside from the fact that some IT administrators allegedly watched footage from the webcams as if it were a soap opera, was the school district's failure to alert parents and students to whom the laptops were issued that the webcams could be activated remotely. The school district also failed to get permission from the students and their families to collect footage from the cameras in the event that the laptops were lost or stolen.


The district and its employees were cleared of criminal wrongdoing after the FBI and local authorities completed their inquiries into the situation. Late Monday, the Lower Merion School Board approved a settlement of the civil cases brought against it as a result of the situation. According to, the district will pay $10,000 to an 18-year-old student who filed his own lawsuit, $175,000 into a trust for Robbins, whose parents sued on his behalf, and $425,000 in legal fees.


In a statement, the board's president, David Ebby, said:

We believe this settlement enables us to move forward in a way that is most sensitive to our students, taxpayers and the entire school district community. The agreement is comprehensive, and effectively resolves all components of the laptop litigation... Although we would have valued the opportunity to finally share an important, untold story in the courtroom, we recognize that in this case, a lengthy, costly trial would benefit no one.

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