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.

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Comments on “Spying School District Pays Out $610,000 To Settle Lawsuit — Mostly To The Lawyers”

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Re: Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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]
Hutz: Yes, well, er —
Bart: Cool!
Hutz: Let’s roll.

Gregg L. DesElms (profile) says:

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?)

Dude I go to this school says:

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.

Hypocrisy Rules says:

Re: 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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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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