Paoli Resident Calls for Fair Play and Common Sense From Elected Officials

The following Letter to the Editor appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life newspaper.  Written by Paoli resident Eugene Grace, this letter really hits on what some of us have been thinking lately.  Mr. Grace doesn’t write his letter with a particular political view or slant; nor is he suggesting that one political party is better or worse than another.  Mr. Grace’s  message is simple . . . he is asking for fair play and common sense from our elected officials.  An interesting letter — comments?

  To the Editor:

Fair play and common sense are the two traits that voters want from their political leaders.

Fair play means simply following the established rules of the game as well as their related customs and traditions. Locally, fair play does not include Tredyffrin’s use of “New Matter” to keep a significant township matter off the published agenda. Locally fair play would not allow the Lower Merion School District to plant remote-controlled webcams into school-provided computers without some form of notice.

Nationally fair play does not include the U.S. Senate’s use of a tactical tool known as “Reconciliation” to pass major legislation. Under “normal” Senate rules, 60 votes are required to move legislation through that body. Reconciliation was developed as a speedier way to move smaller budgetary or tax issues through the Senate with only a simple majority of 51 votes. The Senate’s use of Reconciliation for health care would be a departure from Senate rules and tradition.

Common sense informs us that Tredyffrin should have collected monies owed under previous commitments without further study and that the Lower Merion School District should have provided notice to students regarding a potential invasion of privacy. Common sense says that the U.S. Senate should not employ Reconciliation regarding health care, which constitutes 16 percent of the U.S. economy. Common sense tells us that leaders should lead.

The fact that “The People” are leading on all these issues tells us that fair play and common sense have been thrown to the wind. Common sense tells us that the “leaders” responsible for these decisions should have a similar fate.

Eugene P. Grace, Paoli

FBI Investigating Lower Merion School District’s Use of Laptop Webcams to Allegedly Spy on Students and Their Families!

Did you hear about the lawsuit filed against Lower Merion School District? In the case of Blake J. Robbins v. Lower Merion School District, the suit claims that laptops were issued to Harriton High School students with webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools’ administrators. The suit claims that the administrators were able to use this webcam feature to spy on students and even their families.

The issue came to light when the Robbin’s child was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and Harriton High School Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. The suit is a class action, brought on behalf of all students issued with these specific webcam equipped laptops.

If these allegations are true, how creepy is this for the students and their families? Think about it . . . I’m sure that a number of these kids have their laptops in their bedrooms where they may be getting dressed, or how about if the laptop is located in an area where there are private discussions with the students families. It is one thing if a school district has the ability to monitor emails or mark inappropriate website visits but to use these computers as ‘bugs’ is horrifying.

Schools all over this country are worried about kids divulging too much personal information online, concerned about pedophiles, embarrassing uploads of photos, etc. that may affect college acceptances or future job opportunities. Kids are taught by parents and school administrators to threat their personal details as though they were precious. And now we have this revelation in nearby Lower Merion School District?

It is my understanding that Lower Merion School District has admitted that the laptops were shipped with software for covertly activating their webcams, but is denying wrongdoing. Late today, the Associated Press is reporting that the FBI is now involved in the case. The FBI is investigating the Lower Merion School District over allegations that a high school in the school district spied on students through their laptop webcams. The official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, says the FBI will explore whether Lower Merion School District officials broke any federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws.

Lower Merion officials say they remotely activated webcams 42 times to find missing student laptops in the past 14 months, but never did so to spy on students, as the Blake J. Robbins v. Lower Merion School District lawsuit claims.

What is Tredyffrin Easttown School District’s policy on computer usage outside of school hours?  Does the school district have a similar laptop program to Lower Merion?  I don’t think our school district assigns laptops to individual students, correct?  Are any of the district’s laptops permitted to leave the schools?