Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I have heard of some dumb things, but nothing nearly as dumb as the Philadelphia area school district which offered laptop computers complete with webcam to 2,300 high school students – ostensibly to “enhance opportunities for ongoing collaboration, and ensure that all students have 24/7 access to school based resources," but without telling those students that the school administrators could access each webcam remotely and even take pictures through it.

Now how stupid is that! Was there not one person in the whole school system who saw a problem with doing such a thing? Not one teacher? Not one administrator? Not one lawyer? Not one board member? Did some see it and just not think it important enough to stop it in its tracks?

In today’s litigious society even ordinary people have to think about legal ramifications of everything we do. Just yesterday I was looking at my apartment complex’s rental lease to see what it said about keeping dogs on leashes. I’ve recently been walking my neighbor’s dogs while she is recovering from a serious medical condition and to date I’ve been faced twice with unleashed dogs running at us, barking and snarling, as we rounded a corner. Luckily both times the dogs were smallish and stopped short of actually attacking us, but nevertheless, the nose-to-nose confrontation is what made me decide I’d better see what a resident’s obligation is. Sure enough: our lease says three things about dogs. First, they must be kept on a leash when they are outdoors. Second, the apartment complex management has no liability for injuries sustained if an off-leash dog attacks and injures a person or another animal. And last, dog owners had better be sure they have liability coverage in the event of a lawsuit being filed over injuries inflicted by their own dogs. More than ever before, we must be aware of our legal obligations, if for no other reason than our society is truly becoming meaner and nastier than every before.

Getting back to using computers to spy on students (although that isn’t what the school administrators said they were doing), I can’t believe that anyone would buy into the school district’s rationale to only use the webcam in cases where the computer was lost, stolen or missing. Did anyone run this idea by the insurance company for their opinion? Or their legal counsel? Didn't they think that sooner or later the sky was going to fall in on them?

Lawsuits are being settled now, but things like this just make me shake my head in wonder. I do not understand why one school can get irrationally upset by a kindergartener who brings to school a single tiny unpopped cap left over from 4th of July festivities and why a different school appears totally bewildered that anyone would think they did something wrong by giving out computers capable of spying on children.

Stupid, is the only word I can think of that comes close to being accurate. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

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