This scandal has lit up civil libertarians' radar for the past couple of months. Back in February, I posted about a school district in Pennsylvania that found itself the target of a lawsuit by parents of a student who had allegedly been spied upon by a vice principal. The vice principal accused the student of taking and selling drugs based on "evidence" officials came upon by spying on the kid while in his own bedroom. (The "drugs" turned out to be candy.) How? Via a webcam on the laptop provided to all students by: the school district accused of spying on the students.
Now the story has gotten a whole lot ickier. It turns out that Blake Robbins, the student targeted by the school district was more than merely watched in his bedroom; more than 400 screen shots were taken of the sophomore in his bedroom, including images of him in various states of undress. (Thankfully, none of the images are of "prurient content.") Approximately 56,000 screenshots were captured of students by the school district.
Two district employees accused of activating cameras on the students' laptops have been placed an administrative leave. One refused to cooperate during a deposition, invoking the 5th amendment in response to nearly every question asked of her. E-mails obtained by the plaintiff's lawyer, on the other hand, find she's not only likely guilty as hell, but that she and other employees who had access to activiting the spy cameras did so for unauthorized reasons.
Meanwhile, hundreds of parents in the school district are actually opposing the class-action lawsuit; they're "outraged" that the plaintiff is seeking monetary damages and fear that a verdict in his favor would wreck the school district financially.
This is not just a First Amendment shipwreck; this is a tragedy for the entire community. Faced with a choice between losing the childrens' basic rights granted under the Constitution or the school district losing a ton of money, the community finds itself divided. If the not-yet-guilty parties are prematurely fired, they'll sue the school district, and if the Robbinses settle, the school district may not even have to admit guilt. What began as a noble gesture (loaning laptops to all students) may end up costing everyone dearly.