Spycam case lawyers meet with judge

Posted: July 29, 2010

Lawyers for the Lower Merion School District and the first student to sue over its use of webcams to track laptops met Thursday with a federal judge but would not say if they were any closer to resolving their dispute.

Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., the attorney for the school district, and Mark Haltzman, representing Harriton High School junior Blake Robbins, declined to comment as they left the judge's 12th-floor chambers in federal court in Philadelphia.

The 75-minute, closed-door meeting with U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois followed a flurry of recent filings from both sides that signaled new hurdles in the five-month old case. Robbins and his parents claim the monitoring was an invasion of their privacy.

In the past two weeks, the district and a group of Lower Merion parents have filed separate motions opposing Haltzman's request to certify the case as a class-action matter.

They argued the step was legally flawed and unnecessarily complicated the case because Lower Merion already has taken steps to ban the unauthorized monitoring of student laptops.

The parents also accused the Robbinses' lawyer of overly aggressive tactics and false accusations that they say have "besmirched" the suburban district's reputation. And they said that Robbins' allegations aren't representative of most Lower Merion students.

Four days later, Haltzman filed a nearly identical civil rights lawsuit on behalf of another Lower Merion student.

Jalil Hasan, who graduated from Lower Merion High School in June, says in his complaint that he learned on July 8 that the webcam on his school-issued laptop had been running for nearly two months last school year.

The district did not directly respond to the new claims, except to say litigation "is not the way to proceed."

Contact John P. Martin at 610-313-8120 or at jmartin@phillynews.com.

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