Webcam uproar figure decries 'unjust' rumors

Lower Merion student Blake Robbins (above, center) and assistant vice principal Lynn Matsko (right, center) at separate news events yesterday.
Lower Merion student Blake Robbins (above, center) and assistant vice principal Lynn Matsko (right, center) at separate news events yesterday.
Posted: February 25, 2010

Lynn Matsko wouldn't answer reporters' questions yesterday, but the look on her face said it all.

She's had enough.

Matsko, the Harriton High assistant vice principal at the center of the Lower Merion School District webcam scandal, choked back tears twice as she rebutted the "unjust and inaccurate" rumor that she had "spied" on a student through the camera embedded in his school-issued laptop.

"I find the allegations and implications that I have, or ever would, engage in such conduct to be offensive, abhorrent and outrageous," said Matsko, the mother of two teenaged boys.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the family of Harriton High sophomore Blake Robbins sued the affluent Main Line school district for invading his privacy, Matsko was barely able to contain her anger.

The lawsuit, filed last week, claims that Matsko approached Robbins in November about alleged "improper behavior in his home" and cited a photograph that had been secretly snapped by one of the Apple MacBooks that the district lends to its 2,300 high-school students. The story has generated headlines around the world.

"I have been the recipient of multiple offensive and threatening e-mails, have read the horrible labels and names attributed to me in print and on the Internet, and have had to sit in silence while my good name is being dragged through the mud," she said.

Matsko's attorney, Dennis Abramson, said that his client was forced yesterday to hold a Tiger Woods-style news conference - reading a statement with no questions from reporters - due to "legal and ethical obligations," including a federal court order limiting what school officials can say about the case.

The FBI and the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office have subpoenaed district records and are investigating whether officials broke state or federal wiretap and computer-use laws.

District officials have conceded that they remotely activated student webcams dozens of times this school year, but only to recover stolen or missing laptops. They say that they have disabled the controversial security feature since the suit was filed last week.

Outside his Penn Valley home yesterday, Blake Robbins said in a prepared statement that the case "is not about Ms. Matsko or us," but the district's decision "to put cameras in our homes" without notifying students or their parents.

"We are thankful that the lawsuit has succeeded in getting this peeping-tom technology turned off," said Robbins, flanked by his parents and sisters. "Now, we need to learn to what extent the peeping-tom technology was used by the school district or any employee of the school district."

Robbins asked the district to grant his attorney access to all the webcam photos and screenshots in its possession to save taxpayers the expense of a prolonged lawsuit.

"To delay this litigation any further, by refusing to promptly turn over this information, only causes the school district to incur additional legal fees, which are unnecessary," he said.

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