Parents meet to slam Lower Merion spy-cam suit

Not every parent in the Lower Merion School District wants to be part of the "class" that Blake Robbins and his lawyers have in mind.

As the Harriton High sophomore seeks to have his invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against the district certified as a class action, hundreds of parents are banding together in opposition.

"It makes no sense to me. It's like I'm suing myself," said Jamie Singer, whose son and daughter attend the high school.

Robbins, 15, rocked the Main Line district - and triggered an FBI investigation - by filing suit in federal court last month claiming that school officials had been monitoring his home activity via the webcam embedded in his school-issued laptop.

District officials subsequently admitted that the Apple MacBooks lent to 2,300 students were equipped with tracking software that allowed for the remote activation of the cameras. They maintain that the feature was used only to recover stolen or missing laptops.

Singer and the more than 100 other parents who attended a strategy session last night at Narberth Borough Hall say they want nothing to do with a class-action suit that could end up costing the district millions of dollars in legal fees and court costs.

"We're the ones that are going to have to pay the freight at the end of the day," said Michael Boni, a parent who helped organize last night's meeting through the Web site lmsdparents.org. "We are also unhappy that this is a distraction for the students. The fact that it's garnered as much local, regional and national press as it has is nothing that the parents want."

Parents last night discussed possible ways to block the Robbins case from reaching class-action status. One woman privately grumbled that she'd like the family to move to another school district. Larry Silver, a parent and lawyer, told the audience that it's a "rob Peter to pay Peter" scenario.

"There are a lot of people that feel the lawsuit is inappropriate, but they want to see exactly what happened, and, if there's an issue with privacy, get it rectified," said Bob Wegbreit, a Narberth councilman whose daughter attends Harriton.

Wegbreit said nearly 400 families of high-schoolers in the district have signed a petition opposing the lawsuit on lmsdparents.org.

"Do I think they were intending to spy? I would be very surprised if that was the case," said Ronnie Ancona, whose son attends Lower Merion High. "It's a terrific district, and they've already admitted that they made a mistake."

Robbins' attorney, Mark Haltzman, had asked to attend last night's meeting to update the parents, but was denied.

"It is critical that someone independent of the Lower Merion School District investigate to what extent each student's privacy rights have been violated," Haltzman said last night.