Officials Revisit Lower Merion WebcamGate

The allegations of Lower Merion school officials spying on students made national news last school year, and now the issue is once again getting attention.

Lower Merion School District officials are convening Monday night to figure out laptop policies for the upcoming school year.

Lower Merion has teamed up with a committee of 60 faculty, administrators and families, as well as a consultant, to come up with new rules and policies.

“Our goal is to be a national model when it comes to the intersection of technology, privacy and security,” representative Doug Young told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It is anticipated that the meeting will involve discussions about letters going out to district families describing the laptop program.

The chaos started from the WebcamGate scandal, when a student accused a Lower Merion official of spying on him via a webcam on his school-issued laptop.

In February, Harriton High School sophomore Blake Robbins alleged that the assistant principal Lindy Matsko accused him of “improper behavior” at home with photo evidence that, according to the lawsuit, she got from his laptop’s webcam.

About 1,800 students from Lower Merion and Harriton high schools had received Apple MacBooks as part of a district laptop program. The program was supposed to allow the students full-time access to any academic resources they needed.

District officials said that the webcam feature was intended to only be used to help find stolen or lost laptops. The feature was part of LANRev software.

Officials also said that the district’s two IT employees had sole access to the software. They have been suspended since February with pay.

Lower Merion IT employee Carol Cafiero claimed in April that she enabled the webcam software but did not spy on the students.

However, an email thread showed that Cafiero commented, “I love it,” when a fellow employee found the photos recorded of students similar to a soap opera.

The school district’s expenses from the lawsuit were nearing $1 million in June.

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