Schnader Attorneys Join the ACLU in Successfully Obtaining Protection of Students’ Privacy in Lower Merion School District Laptop LawsuitOn April 14, 2010 by Schnader in Litigation
Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP joined with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) in filing a motion on April 5 asking the judge presiding over the Lower Merion School District “webcam case” to prevent anyone other than the students whose privacy was invaded from viewing any photographs or other materials gathered through the school district’s practice of remotely accessing students’ laptop computers. On April 14, U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois granted the motion and barred anyone from disseminating photos or screen shots captured by the Lower Merion School District’s laptop-tracking program without his permission.
The motion, filed on behalf of Harriton High School senior Evan Neill and his parents, Richard Neill and Elaine Reed, also asked that the Neill family be permitted to intervene in the lawsuit as additional plaintiffs, so that they can protect their privacy interests. The Neill family is not seeking any monetary damages, but has asked that Lower Merion School District be permanently barred from remotely accessing students’ school-issued laptops without putting in place proper safeguards.
In a press release issued by the ACLU-PA when the motion was filed, Schnader’s Stephen J. Shapiro said, “by all accounts, it appears that the school district remotely accessed laptops while they were located in student’s homes, thereby violating the constitutionally protected privacy rights of its students and their families. In recent court filings, the parties have indicated that they are collecting and intend to disclose the images and other data collected by the school district’s tracking software. Permitting anyone other than those whose privacy was violated to view those images would compound the privacy violations. The Neill family wants to make sure that, as this case progresses, those whose privacy already was violated are not re-victimized.”
In news reports detailing the new developments in the case, Shapiro praised Judge DuBois’ decision, noting that “[i]t severely limits the universe of people who have access to the photographs and other data collected by the district,” and emphasizing “[i]f that data and materials ended up in the hands of anybody else and was circulated around, that would simply compound the privacy violations.”
Schnader attorneys Theresa E. Loscalzo and H. Justin Park are also working on the case, as are Mary Catherine Roper and Witold Walczak of the ACLU-PA.