In L. Merion, webcams, lawsuits not on agenda

Residents gather last night at Narberth meeting, the first since the webcam uproar in Lower Merion School District.
Residents gather last night at Narberth meeting, the first since the webcam uproar in Lower Merion School District.
Posted: February 24, 2010

If the 100 or so people who slogged through the rain last night for a discussion of issues affecting the Lower Merion School District expected to hear about two pending lawsuits that have shaken the township, they were disappointed.

Both Schools Superintendent Christopher McGinley and Thomas Grady, the mayor of Narberth, where the meeting was held, made it clear that the lawsuits were forbidden topics. Whenever someone brought up the issue of the spying laptops or a controversial redistricting plan, one or the other of the men said they couldn't talk about them.

"We're unable to discuss laptop security," McGinley said. "But we're doing everything possible to ensure that children are cared for and children are learning."

The school district's Web site said that the long-planned meeting was to discuss educational programs, transportation, curriculum, finances and similar subjects with school officials and teachers making presentations.

The normally quiet and sedate school district was rattled last week when it was revealed that laptops issued to high school students might have been able to photograph students in their homes with webcams embedded in the devices.

An invasion-of-privacy lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of a Harriton High School student who claimed he was spied on.

The redistricting suit, also filed in federal court, contends the district's redistricting plan discriminates against black students.

Marie Beresford, who has two children in elementary schools, commented after the meeting, "I don't know how many lawyers there are on the school board but they need to figure out a way not to get sued.

"I'm very concerned that tonight we were presented with cuts in curriculum, but also technology, and we're funding not one, not two, not three but multiple lawsuits.

"The district does not have a relationship with the community."

Cindy Rothman, whose daughter was given one of the laptops, said, "I don't think that anybody was spying on the students. I really think the district did not have horrible intentions. They made a couple of mistakes and that's OK. I don't think any law has been broken.

"My daughter is scared, but as a parent I have an OK feeling about" the monitoring.

A man who didn't want to give his name echoed what some others said, "I don't think we have enough information before we rush to judgment."

The Rev. Lydia Munoz, pastor of the Plumbline United Methodist New Church in Narberth, said she attended because her parishioners are concerned about what is going on.

"I think we're all trying to find a solution," she said. "We need to find ways to engage in a really good dialogue."

comments powered by Disqus