So your kid’s school district has given your kid a laptop to study on. Great idea! They can use them to work on homework, do research, and make multimedia presentations. And they come with webcams — which lets students talk to each other about their assignments, chat with teachers, and — oh yeah — lets the school spy on students without their or your knowledge:
According to the filings in Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) et al, the laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools’ administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families. The issue came to light when the Robbins’s child was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and the 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 machines.
This is, of course, horrifying on so many levels that it’s hard to imagine someone green-lighting this policy. I mean, this is literally what Big Brother did in 1984 — spy on people using their telescreens, at random times, without their knowledge, hoping to catch them in a thoughtcrime. That the target was a student, rather than a grown-up, does not make this better. Indeed, it makes it worse — if the school is randomly spying on students who happen to have their computers on, how many images of students getting dressed did they pull up? How many intimate conversations between partners did they save video from? Not to mention that even if they just got a picture of my kid sitting at their computer, doing her homework like a perfect human being, who the hell is a school district to take pictures of my child without my or her knowledge or her permission?
Add to it the fact that the student in question was punished for “improper behavior in his home” — which, last I checked, is not school — and you have a district where every administrator in the school, plus the superintendent, should be summarily dismissed.
I’m going to say it now: if my daughter is doing something “improper” in her home, it’s none of her school’s business. It’s my business, and her mom’s, and believe me, we’ll be happy to punish her if we need to. But that punishment does not need to come from the school. Indeed, I’d prefer it didn’t.
No, I want my daughter’s school to educate her – something most schools do a very good job of, including, might I add, my daughter’s school. They — and other schools — should continue to educate. Parenting, however, needs to be left to the parents. And if a kid has bad parents — well, there are things that the school can do to help the kid. But spying on them randomly is not one of them.