Harriton High School Used Laptop Webcams To SPY On Students At Home, Suit Alleges

18 02 2010

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A federal lawsuit accuses a suburban Philadelphia school district of spying on students at home through school-issued laptop webcams.

The suit says Lower Merion School District officials can activate the webcams remotely without students’ knowledge. The lawsuit alleges the cameras captured images of Harriton High School students and their families as they undressed and in other compromising situations.

Families learned of the alleged webcam images when an assistant principal spoke to a student about inappropriate behavior at home.

Boing Boing reports that according to details included in the Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District filings, ‘The issue came to light when the Robbins’s child was disciplined for “improper behavior in his home” and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. ‘

Superintendent Christopher W. McGinley did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.
Get HuffPost Technology O


Student Nearly Suspended Over LEGO-Sized Gun

5 02 2010

image via SI Advance
Just how little tolerance is zero tolerance? A Staten Island fourth-grader was reprimanded and almost suspended yesterday when the principal spotted him playing with a LEGO policeman and a two-inch-long toy gun during lunch, the Advance reports.

Under the city’s no-tolerance policy regarding guns in schools, PS 52 Principal Evelyn Matroianni brought 9-year-old Patrick Timoney to her office and called his mother to say the boy might be suspended for carrying the miniature toy gun to school, pending the approval of the Department of Education’s security administrator. When contacted, the administrator reportedly said the toy should be confiscated and returned to the boy’s parents, however no other punishment would be necessary.

“It’s crazy,” the boy’s mother, Laura Timoney, told the paper. “He’s missing class time, all for silly toys. The boys are just trying to relax. If there’s a real threat, why not call the Police Department?” She noted that another child had brought an action figure that was carrying an ax, but only her son was punished. “When are we going to take responsibility for common sense and logic?” In 2007, a New Jersey 7-year-old was suspended when he drew a picture of gun.

Nothing Is More Important Than Keeping Kids Safe in School

5 02 2010

Today, the Committee on Education and Labor considered the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and I introduced this bill in December for a simple reason: all children should be safe and protected at school.

Last year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office told our Committee about a shocking wave of abusive restraint and seclusion in our nation’s classrooms. They told us that hundreds of students in this country have been victims of this abuse. In many cases these victims were our smallest and most vulnerable children: children as young as four and five, and many students with disabilities. And in some instances, children died.

We learned that while restraint and seclusion should be considered emergency tactics used as a last resort, far more often these techniques are abused under the guise of discipline or to force compliance. Last year, in California, districts reported more than 14,300 cases of seclusion, restraint and other “emergency” interventions.

With no federal laws on the books restricting restraint and seclusion in schools, state laws read like the Wild West. Many states have no regulations whatsoever.

We learned that children currently have greater protections from these practices in medical and mental health facilities than in classrooms, where they spend most of their time. We also heard the heartbreaking stories of Cedric and Paige, two young students who were horribly abused by school staff using restraint and seclusion. Like many other victims, Cedric and Paige were not posing a serious threat to their teachers or peers. This hearing opened a flood gate for parents with their stories about their children. Parents from Maine to Missouri who felt like they had nowhere else to turn, called our Committee to share the devastation they experienced when their child was improperly restrained or locked in a seclusion room.

We cannot allow their traumatic stories to be ignored. When these abuses occur, it isn’t just the individual victims who suffer. It hurts their peers who witness these traumatizing events. It undermines the vast majority of teachers and staff who are trying to give students a quality education. It’s a nightmare for everyone involved.

Immediately after our hearing last spring, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced plans to encourage states’ to review their policies on seclusion and restraint, and ensure that students are safe at school. I understand the Department plans to release their findings in the coming weeks and I look forward to learning more about states’ efforts. But there is no question that basic federal protections are needed to make it clear that restraint and seclusion techniques should be used only as a last resort, when someone is in imminent danger of physical injury and there are no alternatives.

The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act will for the first time establish minimum safety standards in schools, similar to federal protections already in place for children in other facilities that receive federal taxpayer dollars. The bill prohibits mechanical restraints, such as strapping children to chairs, misusing therapeutic equipment to punish students, or duct-taping parts of their bodies. It prohibits chemical restraints, like medications used to control behavior without a doctor’s prescription. It prohibits any restraint that restricts breathing. And it prohibits any aversive behavioral interventions that compromise health and safety, like denying students water, food, or clothing, denying access to the bathroom, or using pepper spray.

This bill will prohibit restraint or seclusion from being written into plans for individual student as intentional planned interventions, but allows for schools to plan for appropriate crisis intervention. It will require schools to notify parents after incidents when restraint or seclusion was used, so that parents don’t learn about these abuses from a whistle blowing teachers aid or classroom parent – or their own child’s bruises.

This is about helping teachers, not punishing them. This is about fixing a system that doesn’t properly support teachers and other school staff. That’s why this bill asks states to ensure that enough school staff are properly trained to keep students and staff safe, but gives states and local districts the flexibility to determine the training needs of each individual school.

I know we all agree that nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe. It is time to end this abuse in our schools. This legislation offers us that opportunity. I am very proud that we worked in a bipartisan way to introduce this bill. I’d like to thank Rep. McMorris Rodgers for her leadership and partnership in this effort. I’d also like to thank the National Disability Rights Network, for first bringing this abuse to our attention and to the National School Boards Association and the nearly 100 other organizations endorsing the bill.

Adapted from Chairman Miller’s statement at today’s markup of the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act.

Student arrested for doodling

5 02 2010

Desk Doodling Arrest: Alexa Gonzalez, 12-Year-Old, Handcuffed For Drawing On School Desk
| 02/ 5/10 12:22 PM |

NEW YORK — A New York City junior high student has been arrested for doodling on her desk with a marker.

Twelve-year-old Alexa Gonzalez scribbled “Lex was here 2/1/10” on her desk Monday at Junior High School 190 in Queens. She also wrote “I love my friends Abby and Faith.” The girl says the doodles could have been erased.

Moraima Camacho says her daughter was released several hours after she was taken in handcuffs to a police station.

Education department spokesman David Cantor said the incident shouldn’t have happened, and that common sense should prevail.

Last month, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging more than 20 instances of wrongful arrests and assaults by school safety officers.

Gonzalez has been assigned eight hours of community service, a book report and an essay on what she’s learned from the experience.