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Lower Merion school district to fork over $610,000

The Lower Merion School District in Pennsylvania is now paying for its "sins" against students. The school district is handing over a total of $610,000 stemming from lawsuits brought against it for using webcams to spy on high school students.

Blake Robbins, who was 15 at the time of the incident, will receive $175,000 which will be held in trust -- a second student who joined in on the lawsuit will receive just $10,000. Not surprisingly, the lawyers came out on top in the settlement, with Robbins' attorney receiving $425,000 in legal fees.

The FBI will not press any charges against the school district in this matter.

David Ebby, the district's school board president, issued the following statement:

Although we would have valued the opportunity to finally share an important, untold story in the courtroom, we recognize that in this case, a lengthy, costly trial would benefit no one. It would have been an unfair distraction for our students and staff and it would have cost taxpayers additional dollars that are better devoted to education. We also wanted to be sensitive to the welfare of the student involved in the case, given the possible ramifications of what would have been a highly-publicized trial.

When news first broke that the Lower Merion School District was using school-issued laptops to keep a watchful eye on students courtesy of the built-in webcams, there was understandably quite a bit of outrage from the internet community. Over a 14-month period, the district remotely activated the webcams 42 times.

The school district explained that the remote system was in place to track down stolen laptops. To that end, 28 laptops were recovered using the system.

The straw that broke the camel's back, however, was when Robbins was summoned to the vice principal's office because he was allegedly "engaged in improper behavior in his home". School officials thought that they witnessed the student popping pills via the webcam, but Robbins was actually just munching on Mike & Ike jelly candies. The student's family in turn sued the school district.

"This is an age where kids explore their sexuality, so there's a lot of that going on in the [kid's] room," said Pennsylvania's ACLU legal director Witold Walczak back in February. "This is fodder for child porn."





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