Feds: No charges in Pa. school laptop-spying case
No criminal charges will be filed against a suburban Philadelphia school district that secretly snapped tens of thousands of webcam photographs and screen shots on laptops issued to students.
The FBI and federal prosecutors announced Tuesday they could not prove any criminal wrongdoing by Lower Merion School District employees.
"We have not found evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that anyone involved had criminal intent," U.S. Attorney Zane D. Memeger said in a statement.
The FBI investigated the wealthy district for possible wiretap violations after a student’s civil lawsuit exposed the issue. Lower Merion High School student Blake Robbins alleged the district photographed him 400 times in a 15-day period last fall, sometimes as he slept in his bedroom or was half-dressed.
District officials said its technology staff only activated the remote tracking system to try to find laptops that had been reported lost or stolen. But the district soon acknowledged that the software system sometimes remained activated for weeks or months, even after a laptop was found - causing the district to capture 56,000 webcam photographs and screen shots from student laptops.
"We are very pleased with today’s decision by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which supports the findings of our internal investigation," Superintendent Christopher W. McGinley said. "This is all good news for the students and staff of Lower Merion School District as we prepare for the start of a new school year."
The federal prosecutor’s announcement follows a school board decision Monday to prohibit the remote use of the tracking software without the written consent of students and their parents or guardians. The policy was recommended by a task force formed in the wake of the February lawsuit.
Robbins’ lawsuit is pending, and a second student has joined him in suing the district over the alleged electronic spying.