Spying School District Pays Out $610,000 To Settle Lawsuit -- Mostly To The Lawyers

from the legal-fees dept

We've been following the case in suburban Philadelphia of the Lower Merion School District, which was sued by a student for spying on the student in his home with district issued laptops (the kid was disciplined for supposedly using drugs, with the evidence being a photo of him in his room at his laptop -- the kid claims he was just eating Mike & Ikes candy). While the district initially denied it was spying on students, later reports found 58,000 images were taken, including 469 of another student who also sued.

While the feds declined to bring criminal charges, it looks like the school district has now settled the outstanding lawsuits mainly by giving the lawyers a big chunk of money. In total, the school district paid out $610,000, with $425,000 going to the lawyers. The student who brought the first case will get $175,000, and the student in the second case will get $10,000 (the article mistakenly suggests two separate payments of $185,000, but I believe that's wrong). The district, in its announcement admits that, in total, this whole thing is costing about $1.2 million, which is actually being covered by insurance.

The situation is a bit tricky, because, in some sense, taxpayers are footing the bill for the district's ridiculous policy choices (even though insurance is covering the direct cost). I would imagine that this sort of thing will act as a reasonable deterrent to other school districts considering (or already using) similar technology.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 1:21pm

    The Feds:

    Adults spying on and secretly taking photos of teens? No time.

    The guy who leaked a track from Chinese Democracy? In jail in two days.

    Ahh, priorities...

     

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  2.  
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    interval, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    God I hope so

    "I would imagine that this sort of thing will act as a reasonable deterrent to other school districts considering (or already using) similar technology."

    Hopefully everyone involved at the School District gets fired. But I fear the outcome will be "Ah, well, its just tax money, who gives a flying f*ck?"

     

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  3.  
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    byte^me (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 2:37pm

    Re: God I hope so

    I have done technical work for school districts and my wife is a teacher so I have a pretty good idea of how school districts work. Sadly, I doubt this will serve as a deterrent for anyone.

     

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  4.  
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    LZ7, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 2:45pm

    debate

    Yeah, I couldn't decide to post this, or the new Microsoft patent on video encoding.... covers ALL video encoding that uses "hardware acceleration", which is ALL modern video encoding. ohh... it burns... burns like the clap *

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 2:53pm

    Someone should be going to jail over this. Why have no criminal charges been filed? Does it take a student killing themselves to get people to pay attention to something like this?

    Gee, guess so. Some of those kids should have claimed they were gay and turned it into a hate crime.

     

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  6.  
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    Huh?, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:02pm

    Hello?

    Why isn't anyone more outraged that the lawyers took $425k? It wasn't their rights that were violated.

    No padding the bill there...

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:03pm

    I have worked on the tech side for the schools as well. Schools have very little respect for the personal freedoms and rights of their students. I can totally see an administration/tech team playing with this feature and actually believing they're doing nothing wrong.

    It's an education culture problem, and big settlements simply don't fix that.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:08pm

    Re:

    I also work as a tech at a school district and we make sure this feature is disabled if it is possible on a computer. We don't want this to even come close to happening.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:35pm

    so let me get this straight @8

    you consider spying a feature?
    I consider it an exploit , a hack , invasion of privacy and SICK SHIT

     

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  10.  
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    kimchi, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    Just how in the Hell do the lawyers get more of the money than the plaintiffs do? The way it works, the Attorney's are supposed to get less than what the plaintiffs get, not more.

    I'd be filing a lawsuit against the lawyers in this case.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:46pm

    These people should hire lawyers to sue the lawyers for taking too much money.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 3:47pm

    Create the courts, create the lawyers, then make it a crime for the sheeple to represent each other without a lawyer. Piece of cake.

     

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  13.  
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    Overcast (profile), Oct 12th, 2010 @ 4:40pm

    Best 'fix' for the situation is for HR to clean house..

     

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  14.  
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    abc gum, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 4:50pm

    Clandestine video taping of a minor in the privacy of their home,
    -> No Crime has been committed.

    Openly video taping of an officer in public,
    -> Felony wiretaping

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 7:14pm

    Since the taxpayers are going to end up footing the bill one way or another, I think that if I were suing, I'd say "I don't want one cent beyond my lawyer's fees. I want the people responsible to be sacked so disgracefully that they never work in the education field again".

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 8:44pm

    Re:

    Obligatory Simpsons reference:

    Hutz: Good news, Bart: the Krusty O Cereal Corp. has settled your case
    for $100,000, less, of course, my legal fees.
    Bart: [suspicious] What kind of legal fees?
    Hutz: [looking nervous] Well, for a case this complex, I had to assmeble
    a crack team of lawyers: Ronald Shaporo, trial attorney, Albert
    Dershman, who can hold three billiard balls in his mouth.
    Bart: How much of the hundred thou do I get?
    [Hutz hands him a check]
    $500?!
    Hutz: Yes, well, er --
    Bart: Cool!
    Hutz: Let's roll.

     

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  17.  
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    abc gum, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 4:58am

    Re:

    And in addition, they be subjected to 24-7 surveillance of their Ike and Mike consumption.

     

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  18.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 6:16am

    No one else seems to want to bother.

    The ambulance chasers are the only recourse here. It does no good to whine about the size of their cut. They seem to be the only people stepping up to do anything about this situation. The state is sitting on it's hands.

    Really, this should have resulted in jail time to the relevant parties rather than a monetary judgement that the won't be levied on the individuals in question.

    Although it's preferable than nothing at all.

     

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  19.  
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    Gregg L. DesElms (profile), Oct 13th, 2010 @ 10:40am

    What the school did was abominable; and I've never been able to understand why no criminal charges were filed. If an individual male teacher did, on his own, precisely the same thing, he'd be called a pedophile... or at least an attempted one; and would likely be arrested (and rightly so). This whole thing was just unconscionable...

    ...as is the lawyers getting most of the settlement.

    Hmm. Couldn't we just drag both the school officials, and the lawyers, behind an old Dodge pick-up for a few blocks... you know... just to get their attention? (Kidding, of course... but, hey... one can dream, can't one?)

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: God I hope so

    It can happen: The Dover area school district in Pennsylvania and the business with "intelligent design". My understanding is that the significant cost of the lawsuit involved played a significant part in the subsequent school board elections.

    Then again that case might be an outlier.

     

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  21.  
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    Dude I go to this school, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Just thought I'd mention that.
    But they really have been vilified.
    See, the webcam is remotely turned on when a laptop is reported stolen, so that they can catch the thief. Meaning this kid probably stole the laptop (that is a persistent rumor) and therefore deserves it. Most of the 58,000 pics were probably from stolen computers anyway.

    So yeah chill.

     

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  22.  
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    Hypocrisy Rules, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Re:

    First, the school activated the cams on laptops that were not reported as stolen.
    Also, the student was reprimanded for what he appeared to be doing in the image, not theft.
    In addition, it's doubtful the school would be settling so quickly if they'd acted properly.
    Lastly, how many laptops have been stolen from this school to require 58,000 pics?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 6:32pm

    Lawyers cost a lot

    A lot of people saying the lawyers shouldn't have gotten so much.. But they are the ones that actually did the work here.
    The victims were victimized, the lawyers did the work to actually DO something about it.. a service that takes a lot of manhours, expertise, and expensive sub-services to win your case.
    Lawyers aren't your rock star agent middleman that should be taking 10% at most, they are your carpenter that takes your blueprints and makes your plan a reality.

    They did the work, while you watch. They deserve a big chunk of the payoff on top of expenses.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    andrea, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 7:15am

    Lawyers

    Lets make the law so complex we have to feed these leeches gobs of money. Nice racket they got going eh?

     

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