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Pa. district in laptop spying probe hit with 2nd suit

PHILADELPHIA — A former suburban Philadelphia high school student was “humiliated and severely emotionally distressed” by seeing photos and screenshots quietly taken by his school-issued laptop, according to the second federal lawsuit filed against the district over the alleged spying.

Former Harriton High School student Joshua Levin sued Lower Merion School District on Monday. The suit claims the district violated Levin’s civil rights by taking nearly 8,000 webcam photos and screenshots from his laptop between September 2008 and March 2009.

Lower Merion settled a similar lawsuit last year for $610,000. In that suit, one student claimed a vice principal at the school cited a laptop photo in telling him that the school thought he was engaging in improper behavior. The student said in that photo he was eating candy that had been mistaken for drugs.

District spokesman Doug Young told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Levin had refused the district’s attempts to resolve his complaint without legal action. Young said Levin’s lawsuit is “solely motivated by monetary interests and a complete waste of tax dollars.”

A phone message left at the office of Levin’s attorney, Norman Perlberger, was not returned Wednesday. The district has said it used the software to locate the missing computers.

After last year’s suit was filed, a district review found at least 56,000 images had been captured by the remote tracking program, which was sometimes left on inadvertently for months after laptops were located.

The suit prompted the FBI to investigate whether the district broke wiretapping laws. No charges were filed.

The district has since removed the monitoring software that took the pictures and instituted stricter privacy policies.