Top of the list of things I don’t understand: the administrators’ motivations in this story.
A well-heeled Philadelphia school district gave out laptops to students—then used the webcams attached to covertly spy on them, both at school and at home, according to a class-action lawsuit. The case, Blake J. Robbins v. Lower Merion School District, was filed after one of the school’s vice principals disciplined Robbins’ son for “improper behavior in his home,” using a photo taken from the camera as evidence, according to the filing.
The laptops were issued to 1,800 students at three high schools in the district, each with a built-in webcam that, according to the lawsuit, administrators can activate remotely and covertly. The suit is a class action, brought on behalf of all the students and their parents. They’re seeking damages for invasion of privacy, theft of private information, and unlawful interception and access of electronic information.
The lengths they went to in order to spy on the kids is really the first thing that jumps out at the average reader here, but I can’t get past the fact that they wanted to spy badly enough to go to those lengths. Why on earth do they give a fuck what kids do in their spare time? Personally, I can’t think of anything more boring than watching some teenage kid take stupid and possibly naughty pictures to send to their friends over email. I don’t understand this obsession in the slightest. I imagine being a school teacher is a lot like any other job, and the people you work with hold no particular fascination. I always have mild, polite curiosity about the people I work with—what their families are like, what they do in their spare time—but on the whole, I’m not burning with deep curiosity about their private life. And yet, there is a rash of school administrators out there whose interest in what their students do in their spare time is obsessive and sick.
This is far from the only example. Take, for instance, this ACLU lawsuit. Two girls took some pictures of themselves doing naughty stuff at a slumber party and put the pictures on MySpace. Normal, healthy people’s reaction is, “And?” But not the school administrators! No, they suspended the girls from extracurricular activities, and to make it worse, told them they could get their spots on their athletic teams back if they apologized to the all-male coaches’ board.
Apologize? Why are these grown-ass men acting all butt hurt because some girls took pictures of themselves for their friends? How on earth is that about the coaches and their feelings?
What is this all about? My memories of high school were about teachers who were by and large indifferent to how we spent our time after school. For instance, I remember passing a note back and forth in class with a girlfriend who was telling me some sexual adventure of hers, and the teacher confiscated it. Her punishment for note-passing was usually to read it aloud to embarrass the disruptive students, but she quickly scanned it, and realized that would be over the line in this case. Instead, she just quietly tossed it in the trash. And that was the end of it. We weren’t hauled off to tell her all the dirty details. No one got in trouble for what we did when we weren’t in school. The beginning and end of the infraction was the passing of the note. This was the norm at my school. Sure, we had creepy teachers and administrators who took too much interest in youth culture and high school hierarchies, but it was mostly in service of reinforcing the stupid power structures amongst the students and alienating the geeks and weirdos. But even then, they could not care less if even their loathed students went home and did sexy stuff. That was our parents’ business, not theirs.
So, is this some new thing that’s developed? Or was I just lucky? Does anyone understand this phenomenon? Can you fill me in on what the fuck is going on here?