The lawyer for the former top technology administrator in the Lower Merion School District today attacked a report that broadly blamed his client for the furor over the district's secret laptop tracking program.
Lawyer Nicholas Centrella, who represents Virginia DiMedio, said he didn't dispute the facts in the 69-page document, issued at a school board meeting Monday night. But Centrella challenged some of the conclusions, starting with the cover page that described it as an "independent" probe into when and why district tech employees activated Webcams on student-issued laptops.
"It was not an independent investigation," he said. "What flows from that [report] is a clear attempt to insulate and protect the current board at the expense of the IT department and former employees like Ginny."
The report, prepared by a team of attorneys and computer experts hired by the school board to investigate the now-infamous system, faulted Lower Merion employees and administrators and board members for failing to properly consider privacy issues, institute policies or notify students and parents that school district technicians could remotely activate Web cams and imaging software on laptops issued to every high school student.
But its most pointed criticism was aimed at DiMedio and her staffers, who investigators said "were not forthcoming" about the technology and were unwilling "to let anyone outside" of their department know about the tracking capabilities.
Technicians turned on the Web cams on student computers 76 times in two school years, almost always when a laptop was reported missing or stolen, the investigation found.
But, according to the report, tech staffers often failed to turn off the tracking software even after the computers were returned to students. In those cases, the system secretly snapped more than 50,000 images, including photos of students, their families and the programs running on their laptop screens.
The investigators said they found no evidence of intentional spying and that none of the images showed "nudity" or students in any uncompromising situations.
Among other things, the investigators disputed DiMedio's account - reported in Sunday's Inquirer - that she asked several times to meet with the school board solicitor to discuss unforeseen legal pitfalls related to the laptop initiative.
Their report also quoted her successor describing the department as the Wild West - "because there were few official policies and no manuals or procedures and personnel were not regularly evaluated."
Centrella said DiMedio never hid the software's tracking features from administrators or board members and he said the report "inappropriately attempts to blame the IT staff" for policy and management flaws.
He also noted that the incident that brought the laptop tracking to light - when an assistant Harriton High School principal confronted sophomore Blake Robbins with a Webcam photo shot in his Penn Valley home - occurred in November, months after DiMedio had retired.
And he said that the former tech administrator plans to give a sworn deposition as part of Robbins' civil suit - and that some of her answers under oath in that case will contradict the report.
DiMedio had declined to meet with the team of lawyers hired by Lower Merion to conduct the internal investigation because the district would not give her legal representation.
"They just refused to do it," Centrella said, "I think, in large part, because they wanted to throw her under the bus."
Asked to comment on Centrella's allegations, Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young said: "The district accepts the methodology, findings and recommended corrective actions outlined by the investigative team."