WEBCAMGATE: Orwell Or ‘Oh Well’?

KAREN HELLER: The laptop-in-every-lap program began two years ago at Harriton and this academic year at Lower Merion. Why did the district hand out MacBooks like so many No. 2 pencils? Because it could. The schools are situated in one of America’s richest communities, where almost all family bank accounts are above average – the median household income is $112,300. The houses are exceptional, too, the median home valued at $583,900. The family poverty rate is almost squat, 2.4 percent. Among Southeastern Pennsylvania’s 64 school districts, Lower Merion is top in student expenditures, $21,663 per child in 2008-09, while the Philadelphia School District ranked 60th, at $11,426. Some folks wonder why Lower Merion students receive laptops, when there are likely several at home, while students in Philadelphia don’t. MORE

MONICA YANT KINNEY: Even parents “refusing to rush to judgment” seem to agree that Lower Merion administrators should have been up-front about the high-tech snooping capability at the heart of the Robbins’ lawsuit. “Why didn’t they tell us?” asked Chuck Barsh, father of a Lower Merion sophomore. And, I’d add, why haven’t school officials held a proper news conference to counter the allegations? Instead, they send late-night e-mails raising more questions than answers. Today, Harriton assistant vice principal Lindy Matsko will star in a Tiger Woods-like “press availability” where she will refuse to engage the press. “Mistakes were made,” acknowledged Butler, mother of a Harriton High 10th grader, “but I don’t think it’s the civil rights nightmare others have made it out to be.” She’s right, of course. But in the court of public opinion, will it even matter? MORE

INQUIRER: In a voice that swelled and quavered with apparent anger, Harriton High School Assistant Vice Principal Lindy Matsko this morning decried the “many falsehoods and misperceptions” about her role in the Lower Merion school’s webcam tumult sparked by a student’s lawsuit. “At no time have I ever monitored a student via a laptop webcam,” said Matsko, who is in her 25th year working for Lower Merion School District, “nor have I ever authorized the monitoring of a student via a laptop webcam, either at school or in the home. And I never would.” Matsko, who was speaking for the first time since the suit was filed last week, did not take questions after the six-minute statement she delivered in the Center City office of her attorney, Dennis Abramson. She said she has been the recipient of “numerous” mean and threatening emails. Reading from a sheet of paper that shook in her hands, Matsko said allegations she participated in monitoring Harriton sophomore Blake Robbins in his home via the camera of his school-issued MacBook were “offensive, abhorrent and outrageous,” her volume rising after every word. MORE

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