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Feds Won't File Charges In School Laptop-Spy Case

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the noa-culpa dept.

Privacy 398

jamie writes "Federal prosecutors have decided not to file charges against a Philadelphia school district or its employees over the use of software to remotely monitor students. From the article: 'US Attorney Zane David Memeger says investigators have found no evidence of criminal intent by Lower Merion School District employees who activated tracking software that took thousands of webcam and screenshot images on school-provided laptops.'"

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In Soviet Russia Secondary School (1, Funny)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283090)

Laptop watches YOU!

Re:In Soviet Russia Secondary School (-1, Offtopic)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283474)

No, no that should be a reversal. Here the laptop watches you. So the Soviet reversal would be "In Soviet Russia you watch laptop." And no, you shouldn't be worried that the Soviet reversal puts the you first and makes sense. That just means you are communist scum who hate freedom and want the terrorists to win.

Re:In Soviet Russia Secondary School (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283536)

Your definition of "don't worry" intrigues me. I would like to learn more.

Re:In Soviet Russia Secondary School (0)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283560)

Actually, it's:

In Soviet Russia, Laptop watches you.

* Where "you" is not the student carrying around the laptop. "You" is the school district.

Ho hum (4, Insightful)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283096)

Of course the Fed won't prosecute them. After all, it'd just be hypocritical if they went after a bunch of perverted quasi-Orwellian miscreants for doing, on a much smaller scale, the same kind of espionage the Fed directs against its own citizens on a daily basis.

Not a Pedo Thing (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283150)

Well, they couldn't spin it as a Pedo Teacher thing, so they decided it wasn't worth it. You know, "think of the children..."

"Intent"? (4, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283238)

since when was there a need to prove "criminal intent" before prosecuting someone?

Re:"Intent"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283284)

Absolutely. While intent and motive can go a long way in helping to prove guilt, neither are by no means necessary. I can commit a crime (and get convicted) without ever intending to have commuted it. Prosecution does not always need to find a motive in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone has committed a crime.

Re:"Intent"? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283300)

since when was there a need to prove "criminal intent" before prosecuting someone?

Always. Criminal guilt carries to elements:

Actus reus = the guilty act
Mens rea = the guilty mind

This is why "insanity" is a valid defense (there is no guilty mind) and why we don't put children or animals in jail (they are amoral, and cant have a guilty mind).

There are crimes that dont require mens rea (called "strict liability") but they are usually either minor offenses, or when the actor is taking one some obviously large risk that requires a very high standard of care (like when transporting hazardous waste). ... or statutory rape.

Re:"Intent"? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283520)

I guess most of the animals guilty of some "crime" would actually prefer jail (not much different to what already happens to many) instead of a typical fate of such "undesirables"...

Re:"Intent"? (5, Informative)

cappp (1822388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283308)

Some crimes require mens rae [wikipedia.org] which is criminal intent. Others are Strict Liability - think statuatory rape - meaning that intent doesn't matter. In both cases there exists Prosecutorial Discretion [wikipedia.org] which does what it says on the box - lets prosecutors chose whether or not to go after a defendant.

So there's been no judgment as to the actual legality of the issues at question, the prosecutor has just decided not to bring suit. In some situations that seems to be the fairer idea - 18yr old having sex with her 17yr old long term partnet being the most cited example - but there's obviously room for a lot of unfairness.

Re:"Intent"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283534)

Criminal negligence would be a good, first bet for this kind of case, assuming no known connections to pedophile circles..

Re:Ho hum (2, Insightful)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283276)

Where does your sister live? I'll send her a camera... I promise my intentions aren't criminal.

land of the free, eh? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283102)

good lesson to teach the next generation: we will spy on you - sit down and shut the fuck up.

Just because... (4, Insightful)

eggman9713 (714915) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283116)

Just because the feds won't file charges doesn't mean the students themselves or the local DA or state AG can't file civil or criminal charges.

Re:Just because... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283350)

Yes but the State is always the first in line to throw the book at you if you break the law. Here they just look the other way. What kind of message does this send to any judge presiding over a civil suit? Especially a judge who had hoped to be promoted some day to a higher court.

A Horrendous Precedent (5, Insightful)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283124)

This really sets a horrendous precedent, as it gives school officials the ability to use such invasive and insane actions to spy on kids.

Amazing that the government's "think of the children" response to everything else unrelated isn't being applied to one of the few cases where it actually should be.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (-1, Troll)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283210)

...No it doesn't, it simply says that the federal government isn't going to press charges, which is probably a good thing because:

A) Any fines paid would most likely go to the federal government which thus basically cannibalizes state funds for federal funds

B) Its a civil matter

By having this case go to civil court, the victims could get monitory compensation and its simply the proper place to have a trial on something like this. Its not a criminal matter, its fraud and a breach of contract.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (5, Funny)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283304)

could get monitory compensation

I have no words.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283422)

It's a perfectly cromulent usage. He's getting compensated for being monitored!

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283498)

Whereas the GP just has the wrong ones.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283316)

...No it doesn't, it simply says that the federal government isn't going to press charges, which is probably a good thing because:

...

B) Its a civil matter

It's only a civil matter because the government decided not to prosecute it criminally.

By having this case go to civil court, the victims could get monitory compensation and its simply the proper place to have a trial on something like this. Its not a criminal matter, its fraud and a breach of contract.

Ummm... just so you know... if the govt had proceeded with prosecuting this as a criminal matter, that in no way stops the people from filing a civil suit against the school. Actually, it makes things easier (especially if the school lost the criminal case).

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283338)

Its not a criminal matter

Why would you say that?

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (2)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283216)

Ahem, a precedent is set by going to trial, not by avoiding it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precedent [wikipedia.org]

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (2)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283294)

Ahem, a precedent is set by going to trial, not by avoiding it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precedent [wikipedia.org]

Unless of course, I was using the word "precedent" in a non-court/legal related way. In which case it applies, and my statement is indicating that, without a change in the government's mindset, it sets a precedent in how the government will handle such things.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283494)

Which is why our system of prosecutorial discretion [wikipedia.org] needs to be overhauled. It undermines the concept of equal protection under the law.

While all are ensured equitable and fair treatment in court, the odds of their ever coming to trial is totally dependant on the whim of the prosecutor. And eventually the majority that elected him/her to office. Which is something that our Constitution and Bill of Rights is supposed to protect us from.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (4, Insightful)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283242)

It really doesn't set a precedent of any kind. First off, there may still be local criminal filings, and almost certainly a civil suit. If I had kids in that school, you can fucking well bet I'd be talking to a lawyer. I'd be suing for anything and everything, and I'd also be lobbying the school board, and or local parents to replace the entire school board, and then replace the entire administration and staff that were privy to this.

Intent or not, this was a serious breach of privacy. It's also potentially a violation of any number of anti-spying laws. Is it actually legal for a school to install a video camera in my home? If it is, maybe it's time to change the law. If it isn't, why aren't these people being put before a judge? This entire thing reeks. School administrations have gotten just a little out of control lately, and it's about time we smack them back into line. Since we aren't supposed to take someone out behind the gym and beat sense into them anymore, that leaves the political, or legal avenues. The Fed declining to prosecute doesn't constitute an end to the legal front.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (2)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283380)

Sorry, not a LEGAL precedent. But a precedent in how the feds deal with such similar complaints or actions.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283472)

Oh... yeah I should have figured that out. In any case, that's ok. We don't really want the fed getting any more involved in public schools. This should be handled at the local level. The only time I want to see the fed getting involved is if this kind of thing happens across multiple states.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283460)

Is it actually legal for a school to install a video camera in my home?

It is if you consent to it. Now...if they bend/break the rules on when they turn it on, that's another thing entirely.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283406)

It distinctly avoids setting a precedent. Prosecuter's are not judges. If enough people leaving flaming bags of dog shit on his doorstep (or the Mayor's), he'll get the message and tow the line. If that doesn't happen, then I guess he will have made the right decision.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283436)

It distinctly avoids setting a precedent. Prosecuter's are not judges. If enough people leaving flaming bags of dog shit on his doorstep (or the Mayor's), he'll get the message and tow the line. If that doesn't happen, then I guess he will have made the right decision.

Wow, I forgot so many of you play /. lawyers. There are other applicable definitions for the term which apply to my statement. I thought it was OBVIOUS that I was not talking about a legal related precedent. That means the following definition applies to my statement, as I explained... oh, 3 times so far:

a. An act or instance that may be used as an example in dealing with subsequent similar instances.

Inotherwords, this may affect how other prosecutors decide to (or not to) deal with similar situations.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283556)

Holy crap what the hell DAMN, you'd think they'd realize it off the bat, but despite the two times you had already corrected it...? I feel your pain man.

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283592)

LoL, thanks. Guess I need a nap or more coffee... or both. :-)

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283512)

Well, it is being applied -- think of what the children might be up to, or who might be taking advantage of them, when we're not looking?

It's basically a profound lack of ability to perceive irony [youtube.com] ...

Re:A Horrendous Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283516)

Simple workaround: put a sticky-note over the webcam and disable the microphone.

So preventable (1)

rshxd (1875730) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283148)

Oh no! Duct tape, electrical tape or pink duct tape on the built in webcam! Problem solved!

Re:So preventable (0, Troll)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283166)

Oh no! Duct tape, electrical tape or pink duct tape on the built in webcam! Problem solved!

How so? You can't lynch the administrators if the duct tape's on the laptop.

Re:So preventable (3, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283250)

Oh no! Duct tape, electrical tape or pink duct tape on the built in webcam! Problem solved!

If you had been following the case you would know that students were expressly forbidden to put tape over the camera. They would have been punished had they done it.

Re:So preventable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283340)

..and when they make that a felony? then what?

Couldn't the parents file charges? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283174)

I would think the parents would have standing to press criminal charges, however, just like you can press charges against someone who assaults you.

Before everyone gets outraged... (2, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283182)

Before everyone gets outraged, the fact that the fed won't file charges on it doesn't mean the case is dropped. In fact, I think that the fact that the feds aren't filing charges is really the right thing to do, the goal wasn't criminal, its a civil matter and thus should be settled in civil court with such charges of fraud, breach of contract, etc.

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (1)

deetoy (1576145) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283272)

I disagree. Dismissing a case because criminal intent was not proven has become way too common. "I didn't mean to stab him" & "I didn't mean to run a red light" is not a defense. If the law is there, and a breach is identified and proven to the satisfaction of the courts then a conviction should be recorded. Judges have discretion to impose a range of fines/penalties, including a direction to the school and administrators to improve their procedures.

"won't file charges on it doesn't mean the case is dropped" = I suspect you meant "won't file charges on it doesn't mean the issue is dropped".

Civil charges are a separate matter. The plaintiffs would have to prove damage is caused and justify the legal expense to gain justice. Many civil charges are not pursued due to legal costs.

the article states "A student and his family sued the district in February, claiming officials invaded his privacy by activating the software. That case continues." - wil be interesting to see where this progresses to.

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283354)

So only rich parents deserve justice, right?

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283286)

the fact that the feds aren't filing charges is really the right thing to do, the goal wasn't criminal

Yeah, right. That time I was rolling down a 15% gradient and rolled 5km/h over the posted limit wasn't criminal either. I wasn't intending to exceed the speed limit. It just kinda happened. Does that mean the government will refund my $250 now? You know my address, I'll be waiting for the cheque you useless hypocritical fuckers.

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283310)

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law. I had a federal judge tell me that once. Guess it's just unlucky for me I don't work for the government.

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283552)

This 1000%. No criminal intent? What can I get away with if I say I don't intend anything criminal? Can I set bear traps in my office parking lot? Honest, your honor, I was just trying to catch bears! I had no intention of ever harming anyone!

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (1)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283336)

Tell ya what... tell me where you sister lives and I'll send her a camera... it's ok... I promise my intent is not criminal.. you can trust me!

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (1)

Azuaron (1480137) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283352)

Yeah, except for such laws as, I don't know, wiretapping.

Pennsylvania's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law. Pennsylvania makes it a crime to intercept or record a telephone call or conversation unless all parties to the conversation consent. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 5703 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter B, and then the specific provision).

The law does not cover oral communications when the speakers do not have an "expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation." See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 5702 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter A, and then the specific provision). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place without consent. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.

"Home in my room" is common sense private. Sure, they didn't break any federal laws (all wiretapping laws not related to police are, to my knowledge, state), but I'm pretty sure that state crimes committed by a employees of a public institution automatically escalates the case to the federal level.

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283404)

I actually think that someone should go to jail over this breach, and that's not going to happen in a civil trial. Fines just don't really do anything anymore.

Re:Before everyone gets outraged... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283468)

its a civil matter and thus should be settled in civil court with such charges of fraud, breach of contract, etc.

Again I ask, why would you say that? I doubt you're an attorney (neither am I, for that matter) but if you were to sneak into someone's home and hide a remote video camera in their children's bedroom, just what do you think would happen when the cam is discovered? For one thing, I can guarantee that law enforcement will be damned interested in charging you with criminal behavior. Parents can file civil suits if they wish, but the cops will nail you to the cross as a criminal, and rightfully so. Your plaintive cries of "But officer, I was just watching to make sure they were okay, and following school rules" might elicit a few chuckles from the arresting officers but wouldn't mean squat.

Frankly, I don't really see how this is different, regardless of "intent", and there should have been some arrests made. Granted, I personally am sick to death of "think of the children" but this is one case where I think that's legitimate. These people were illegally spying on children, and need to be taught a lesson. The only reason I can see that the Feds declined to prosecute is because they a. don't think they have a good enough case or b. figure State and local authorities will do better or c. have more important things to attend to. Probably "c", I'd say. Furthermore, I'd be very surprised if some criminal charges weren't forthcoming, if only as a deterrent against similar actions by those in charge of other schools. If it were my kids? I'd sue the fuckers dead, just as a matter of principle. I have to wonder if there are any members of law enforcement who have children under the guidance (and I use the term loosely) of these educators. I hope so.

At this point, if I were underage and my school had issued me a computer, it'd be FORMAT C: for me, baby. They can complain about my removal of their illegal spying tools after I graduate.

Since when does "Letter of the law" need intent? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283192)

EG, Say I back out of my driveway, and back over the neighbor's toddler at 3am on the way to work. (WAY hypothetical)-- I in no way intended to hit said child, but if it dies as a result of my hitting it, it is vehicular manslaughter, regardless.

Likewise, if you are using software to remote control the webcam of laptops that are intended to be in students' homes, neglect to inform parents of the practice, and end up "Accidentally" capturing pictures of students doing "Inappropriate" things, you have just crossed the line of decency, and theoretically could be charged with child porn (depending on what the teenagers photographed were up to at the time), based on the letter of the law. The law says not to take pictures of minors in states of undress (et al), it says nothing about intent.

This is precisely why the "Sexting" issue is relevent with teenagers sending pics on cellphones.

Gotta love double standards like that. If it had been an ordinary IT clerk, instead of a school system's policy, they would have faced serious prosecution, no ifs, ands, or buts. (except the kind on film..)

I am curious to know how these prosecutors have come to this conclusion.

Re:Since when does "Letter of the law" need intent (4, Insightful)

AhabTheArab (798575) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283518)

If it had been an ordinary IT clerk, instead of a school system's policy, they would have faced serious prosecution, no ifs, ands, or buts. (except the kind on film..)

That's a really good way of looking at it. If one person had done this alone (like one of the school district's IT staff for instance) without any approval and it was discovered, he would have been hung out to dry. Even if he legitimately had no criminal intent. Even if he didn't necessarily capture any images which might be illegal. He would at the very least have lost his job, would likely be in prison, and would probably have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Talk about a double standard.

56,000 screen shots??? a little exessive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283196)

56,000 screen shots??? a little excessive i think. Just how many laptops were missing there?

Other than the Legal precedence this has set of course...

criminal intent? (5, Insightful)

flabbergast (620919) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283198)

U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger says investigators have found no evidence of criminal intent...

So, when the speed limit changes from a 55 to a 35 MPH zone in 100 feet and I didn't see the sign, does that mean I don't get a ticket because I didn't intend to commit a crime?

Re:criminal intent? (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283246)

Well, speeding is illegal. Apparently having pre-installed software which takes pictures isn't.

Now if they were pictures in the bathroom, it would be a different story... I'm not saying I agree with the fact that this sort of monitoring software isn't explicitly illegal... But afaik it's not illegal to take pictures of people in the US without informing them, unless of course, you intend to use them for some unlawful purpose.

Re:criminal intent? (2, Insightful)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283278)

I'm pretty sure that it is in fact illegal to take pictures IN A PRIVATE RESIDENCE without the express permission of the owner. Consider that if it is not illegal, why do cops need a warrant to do such things?

Re:criminal intent? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283428)

In order for the federal government to file charges, a federal law would need to be broken. Laws against taking pictures in a private residence would be state, not federal, laws.

Re:criminal intent? (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283488)

Which is why it would be interesting to know what the local AD and AG have to say about this.

Re:criminal intent? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283502)

In order for the federal government to file charges, a federal law would need to be broken. Laws against taking pictures in a private residence would be state, not federal, laws.

Seriously, I doubt that. Federal wiretapping laws are pretty explicit about who gets to spy on whom (they get to spy on us, but we don't get to spy on them, or on each other.)

Re:criminal intent? (4, Insightful)

cyber-dragon.net (899244) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283318)

It is very much illegal. It violates so many laws it isn't even funny.

If even one of those pictures caught a kid with their shirt off for example, they just created kiddy porn.

Re:criminal intent? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283514)

It is very much illegal. It violates so many laws it isn't even funny.

If even one of those pictures caught a kid with their shirt off for example, they just created kiddy porn.

And if that didn't happen, all I have to say is, man, were they lucky. You're right: that would have meant quite a few years in Federal prison for a number of school personnel. And it may happen yet, who knows what will turn up.

sovereign immunity covers all government employees (1)

buybuydandavis (644487) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283204)

I'm glad we've cleared that up. Finally, we can be honest and open about how all this works.

Law is a power of government employees, by government employees, and for government employees. Citizens (a.k.a. tax livestock) have no power or rights before the law.

Shuuut uuup (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283208)

I agree with the FEDs here. My school used software like this and I think they should. If a kid is at school, and on a computer, they shouldn't be going on things that they shouldn't. Now if the school was "spying" on them while at home then it would be a completely different story. I knew kids who would go on pr0n sites while on a school computer, also downloading shit that they shouldn't. SMARTEN UP CHILDREN and you won't have anything to worry about.

Re:Shuuut uuup (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283260)

The laptops were being used at home and snapshots were being taken with the cameras on the laptops, at home.

So, you don't agree with the feds here.

Re:Shuuut uuup (1)

KarmaMB84 (743001) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283274)

They were taking webcam photos of students in their bedrooms via the school provided laptops.

Re:Shuuut uuup (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283322)

Since it seems you were on vacation in LaLa land when the story this is about broke, let me be informative for you:

Yes. The school activated the webcam in the laptops, when they were in student's homes. They did NOT deactivate the webcams when they discovered this fact. Instead, they continued to perform surveylence of the students, and even attempted to expel a student for "Inappropriate Conduct" involving eating Mike & Ike candies at his kitchen table. (School officials though the ginormous red candies were drugs.)

It is a continuing problem with school officials (exacerbated by individuals like yourself who keep offering more surveylence powers and additional "outside the school" powers to public educators and their administration, rather than halting the slide down the slippery slope like everyone else wants.), in that they invoke their government granted powers of coersion^V^V^V "disciplinary discretion" in circumstances and venues far removed from the schoolyard and classrooms. For instance, a student can be expelled for being seen in his own yard, punching another kid, for "Fighting", if he is seen by a school administrator. This could be MILES away from a school zone. I have had school administrators brag to me about this before.

Granted, I will agree with you that "When on school grounds, in a school building, in a classroom, Students should be doing School Work, and not looking at/posting pics of boobs on facebook using school equipment." However, the power to effectively enforce that does NOT require any sort of additional "Off grounds" powers, and any extension of such powers to administrators is an open invitation for abuse, given the total lack of arbitration or appeal processes available to students of public schools. (which creates a situation rife with abuse, in which students literally can do nothing about pathalogically officious school administrators. It is NOT a myth, they DO exist. EVERY school has them, and for this very reason.)

Back to the issue of the student photographed eating Mike & Ikes at his own kitchen table; The authoritarian school system tried to expell him, and when evidence of secret "in the student's own home" surveylence came out, an inquiry was launched which turned up evidence that many other students had been similarly imaged by the project, and confiscated emails of school officials showed that they thought this "In the home" surveylence was "A good thing", "like our own soap opera."

Next time, THINK before you support extention of powers and authority to an already notoriously corrupt/incompetent system, like our public school admin.

Seriously... Criminal Intent? (4, Interesting)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283224)

The case isn't dropped completely, and for that I'm glad:

A student and his family sued the district in February, claiming officials invaded his privacy by activating the software. That case continues.

But still, it really grinds my gears that this whole thing isn't explicitly illegal. The fact that it's legal for the school district to take thousands of screenshots of unsuspecting children is really pretty upsetting.

No Criminal Intent (3, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283244)

Never attribute to Evil what can be explained by stupidity (or incompetence)

Re:No Criminal Intent (5, Insightful)

Ossifer (703813) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283504)

They took 56,000 pictures of minors in their bedrooms and watched them for fun out of incompetence or stupidity??!!?!

Re:No Criminal Intent (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283532)

Never attribute to Evil what can be explained by stupidity (or incompetence)

In this case, the difference is that their stupidity resulted in evil.

Re:No Criminal Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283544)

Why?
Because that's your excuse?!

Re:No Criminal Intent (1)

GeckoAddict (1154537) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283570)

No criminal intent is like me saying 'I didn't intend to shoot that guy! I just fired the gun and didn't realize the bullet would go that far". I'm pretty sure the judge would say "I don't give a crap what you intended to do"

Re:No Criminal Intent (1)

joeyblades (785896) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283578)

... or morbid curiosity ... or Orwellian power trips...

Re:No Criminal Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283582)

Never attribute to Evil what can be explained by evil stupidity (or evil incompetence)

Thank God (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283254)

I am one of the administrators for the school board in question, hence the A.C. post.

This was going to be a HUGE problem for our school board if they had pressed charges, because a lot of us would be going to jail, and there would not be enough teachers in the local area to fill the vacancies. This would really harm the students and the county as a hole.

What we were doing was generally harmless, I don't know why that one moron decided to go after that kid, just because he rebuked his advances. We all know the rule is supposed to be - don't let the kids know, don't approach the kids, just let them be, so we can watch them every night while they masturbate and we have fantasize about joining them. Some of the kids are really quite prolific! Whenever we get together for a Student Watching Party, we usually know which cameras to pull up, based on the time of day. A couple of them you could even set your clock to. A not just male students, either!

Re:Thank God (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283296)

This was going to be a HUGE problem for our school board if they had pressed charges, because a lot of us would be going to jail, and there would not be enough teachers in the local area to fill the vacancies. This would really harm the students and the county as a hole.

So if an individual does this, it doesn't matter if that person gets thrown in jail, their life destroyed, their children in foster care, etc. But GOD FORBID THE TEACHERS LOSE THEIR JOBS!!!

Congratulations. Your school board has taught children that there is a double standard. One law for the citizens. And a different law for anyone who works for the government. Looks like you take care of your own, just like the police.

Re:Thank God (2, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283528)

This would really harm the students and the county as a hole.

You know what? It sounds like your county already is a hole. I certainly won't be moving there, and I don't even have kids.

Double standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283266)

So, in the USA, take innocent pictures of your kids during bathtime and they're taken from your custody for 9 months [1], but plant a camera in a minor's bedroom and secretly take hundreds of pictures of them, and the courts are OK with that?

If the USA were a person, it would need to be declared legally insane.

[1] http://blogs.babble.com/strollerderby/2009/09/21/kids-taken-from-mom-and-dad-for-pictures-of-bathtime/

Terry Childs also didn't have any criminal intent (5, Insightful)

Darth Muffin (781947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283346)

Terry Childs didn't have any criminal intent either, and he caused a lot less harm. Look where that got him... I no longer have any faith in the "justice" system.

Re:Terry Childs also didn't have any criminal inte (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283542)

Terry Childs didn't have any criminal intent either, and he caused a lot less harm. Look where that got him... I no longer have any faith in the "justice" system.

The corollary here will be if the school system somehow manages to blame the students for this. I wouldn't put it past them to try (or the legal system to let them get away with it.)

Very stupid question, but... (1)

by (1706743) (1706744) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283368)

This is only tangentially related, but my two laptops both have LEDs next to the camera that go on when they're in use (MSI netbook and ThinkPad -- plus, I believe all recent Macs have this as well). Is this implemented at the driver- or hardware level? "modinfo uvcvideo" suggests that it's not a user-configurable parameter (though I haven't looked at any source).

Now, if the hardwire kept these LEDs on for, say, a minute after the camera was used (change the colour so it's not confusing), it would make this sort of thing much easier to detect.

Re:Very stupid question, but... (5, Insightful)

Ziktar (196669) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283432)

The students did detect this. They saw the light blinking on and off, and reported it. These claims were dismissed as something wrong with the light. Of course, the fact that the claims were dismissed by the very group of people who could be taking the pictures should have made it seem a bit suspicious...

Re:Very stupid question, but... (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283550)

The students did detect this. They saw the light blinking on and off, and reported it. These claims were dismissed as something wrong with the light. Of course, the fact that the claims were dismissed by the very group of people who could be taking the pictures should have made it seem a bit suspicious...

Not to mention the fact that would have been a heck of a lot of laptops with the exact same "malfunction."

increasingly a police state (3, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283382)

don't you feel that you are living in an increasingly a police state, where the cops' and generally the government actions are always above the law and justified and the citizens actions are more and more criminalized?

Re:increasingly a police state (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283574)

don't you feel that you are living in an increasingly a police state, where the cops' and generally the government actions are always above the law and justified and the citizens actions are more and more criminalized?

No, not at all, not in the least. Why would you say that?

(Geez, buddy, shut the fuck up, you're gonna get us all disappeared.)

Nonsense (1)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283390)

Deciding to spy on the students was the criminal intention. This is the same old story. The law applies only to certain people and not others. If justice were at hand the case would be decided just as if some private person had decided to spy on the kids.

Well that makes sense... (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283414)

the FBI is way to busy being the butt boys for the RIAA. They don't have time to fiddle with some as mundane as school officials violating laws so lets just declare "we found no criminal intent" and sweep it under the rug. Of course we will never really know the full details for the basis the FBI used.

My favorite;

Memeger says he decided to make Tuesday's announcement to close the matter before the start of the school year.

Yeah, lets not have a school being sued while school is in session... nice excuse.

Re:Well that makes sense... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283584)

so lets just declare "we found no criminal intent"

And the truth is, there probably was no criminal intent, just a bunch of arrogant administrators whose authority went to their collective heads, who exhibited astoundingly bad judgment. However, that doesn't mean no laws were broken, doesn't mean that a number of people aren't deserving of a little justice.

Schools are government orgs.... (1)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283416)

Schools are government organizations. Should they file charges against another government organization for spying? If this happened in the private sector, people would already be in jail.

Personally... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283434)

I think it's good to provide incentive not to be careless, not just incentive not to be malicious. Especially if both happen to result in the same gross invasion of privacy.

The fail guy is likey to low to be able to pin it (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283438)

The fail guy is likely to low to be able to pin it him.

Say they pin it on some tech and try to though the book at him child porn and all but do go after the higher ups who did calm to have used the phots even when the assistant principal used them over the fake drugs thing.

They can't go after the higher ups and the lower guys likely did not even have the choice over the software that was being used.

But the law suit likely will bring out cool info about all of this.

So lets get some things straight... (5, Insightful)

mykos (1627575) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283442)

Recording children in their rooms without anyone's consent:
Not wiretapping

Recording the police on the job in a traffic stop at a public location:
Wiretapping

Source: http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=102616&catid=187 [wusa9.com]

Re:So lets get some things straight... (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283566)

Yes, that is correct. From US Code Title 18.2510 [cornell.edu] :

(1) “wire communication” means any aural transfer made in whole or in part through the use of facilities for the transmission of communications by the aid of wire, cable, or other like connection between the point of origin and the point of reception (including the use of such connection in a switching station) furnished or operated by any person engaged in providing or operating such facilities for the transmission of interstate or foreign communications or communications affecting interstate or foreign commerce;

Taking pictures is not an 'aural transfer'

The police recording issue (in the link you provided), is about a Maryland (state) law, not a federal law, so it has no bearing on this at all.

So it's okay... (1)

ronmon (95471) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283446)

to covertly take pictures of teenagers in their bedrooms, but not okay to openly record abusive police actions in public.

Something is seriously wrong.

of couse this means.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33283476)

Welcome to the world of Obama as president. Did you think those cute bumper stickers emulationg a Stalin picture were done by chance?

What about Zero Tolerance in schools? (1)

thomkt (59664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283484)

I'm sure many of the kids caught up in Zero Tolerance suspensions/expulsions didn't have any criminal intent either, but were still prosecuted.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_tolerance_(schools) [wikipedia.org]

, obviously not all result in criminal charges, but many do.

http://rutherford.org/articles_db/press_release.asp?article_id=561 [rutherford.org]

It's not Philadelphia (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283538)

Lower Merion is not in Philadelphia. It is a township in Montgomery county a few miles west of Philadelphia.

Pedobear Says (1)

jewishbaconzombies (1861376) | more than 4 years ago | (#33283568)

Don't worry about Vice Principal Touchy, he's (oh yes) looking out (oh just a little more for the camera) for you for your (pretty supple soft oh yes) own good (oh you're soooo sooooo goooood).
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