Students in a Pennsylvania school district are learning more about George Orwell’s novel 1984 than they had expected.
No, they’re not being subjected to “a boot stamping on a human face, forever” — the bottom line of Orwell’s bleak techno-totalitarian dystopia — but they sure have gotten an unexpected taste of the telescreen in every room.
The Lower Merion School District says it intended no such thing when it handed out webcam-equipped laptops to 1,800 students. It says that the only purpose of its ability to switch on the cams remotely was to help track lost or stolen laptops.
But Blake Robbins, a student at Harriton High, found out different. According to a class action lawsuit against the district, assistant principal Lindy Matsko confronted him about a bad deed he had allegedly done at home. As proof, Matsko pointed to an image on the laptop taken by the webcam. Matsko thought it showed Blake taking drugs. Blake says he had simply been eating Mike & Ike candies. Nor had he reported a lost laptop.
What exactly happened with these webcams will be thrashed out in court. It’s also being investigated by the FBI. But the district admits it never told anybody that it could operate the webcams remotely.
The kicker is this: Kids at the school had just read Orwell’s novel. I guess they’ll remember it better now.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.