Eight months after the Lower Merion School District thought it had settled the furor over secret monitoring of its students' laptops, the district faces a new legal battle on the issue.
On Monday, a 2009 graduate of Harriton High School sued the district, saying it violated his civil rights by capturing nearly 8,000 webcam photos and screen shots from his laptop between September 2008 and March 2009.
The plaintiff, Joshua Levin, contends he was "shocked, humiliated, and severely emotionally distressed" after viewing the images last summer.
A district spokesman, Doug Young, said that district officials had tried to resolve the complaint but that Levin had "flatly refused" mediation attempts. Young called Levin's lawsuit "solely motivated by monetary interests and a complete waste of tax dollars."
Neither Levin, who now lives in Philadelphia, nor his attorney, Norman Perlberger, could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Lower Merion paid more than $1.6 million last year to litigate and settle allegations that it had spied on students through webcams on the laptops it gave to each of its nearly 2,300 high school students.
The district acknowledged that it had used tracking software that let it activate webcams remotely on the laptops and view the images.
In less than two years, staffers activated the webcams on more than 40 laptops, typically after students reported the computers lost or stolen.
But Lower Merion employees often forgot to turn off the webcams after the laptop was recovered, and the computers captured and sent more than 65,000 images to district computer servers.
The settlements included $175,000 paid to Blake Robbins, a Harriton High School student who exposed the practice in a lawsuit that drew worldwide attention.
The photos snapped by Robbins' laptop included images of him sleeping in his bed and pictures of his family. A second student, Jalil Hasan, reached a $10,000 settlement.
Levin's complaint, filed in federal court in Philadelphia, does not describe the images that he said his computer had captured.
The district has since banned any surreptitious webcam activations and instituted expansive training and policies regarding technology and privacy issues.