A new motion in the Lower Merion School School District Webcam-spying case has presented extraordinary suggestions as to the frequency and intimate nature of the photographs allegedly taken remotely by the cameras on school-issued laptops.
On Thursday, lawyers for 15-year-old Blake Robbins and his family claimed that thousands of images were taken by the laptop Webcams. Included in these were, according to the motion, "pictures of Blake partially undressed and of Blake sleeping." In addition, images of Web sites visited and snapshots of their instant messages were also allegedly captured.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, lawyers claim that each time the LANRev software took Webcam shots, it sent them back to school district servers, where employees found entertainment in "a little LMSD soap opera."
Two school district employees were placed on administrative leave in March, after the allegations surfaced, and the school agreed to immediately turn off the Webcams.
The Robbins' family motion claims that 400 pictures were taken of Blake Robbins alone in a period spanning some two weeks late last year. It specifically named Carol Cafiero, one of the employees placed on leave.
The family reportedly suggested that Cafiero "may have been a voyeur" and, on the basis of e-mails the school district allegedly turned over to the Robbins family, the family has demanded to see Cafiero's personal computer. The judge is being asked for that computer to be handed over, while Cafiero's lawyers reportedly say their client is prepared to hand it over to the district's IT staff.
When the accusations first came to light, the school district admitted that it had remotely activated the Webcams 42 times. An assistant principal at Harriton High School, attended by Blake Robbins, denied that she had ever authorized any of the alleged Webcam spying. The LANRev software was activated, the school said, only in the event of a reportedly lost or stolen laptop, but the Robbins contend that their son's laptop was not reported lost or stolen.
The school district explained that Blake Robbins' laptop Webcam was activated because his parents had allegedly not paid the $55 insurance fee. The latest accusations, however, put into ever-sharper focus the very nature and moral and legal probity of remote-controlled Webcams on school-distributed laptops.
Lawyers for both sides were due to meet Friday, and the judge in the case felt it necessary to place restrictions on the publication of photos allegedly taken by the school's Webcams.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the judge's order is that it was reportedly faxed to 17 different lawyers. Such is now the scope of this peculiarly troubling case, it would seem.