Back when this story was fresh people pointed out that a covert child surveillance program using devices kept in bedrooms would inevitably result in some nude photos being transmitted to the administrator's computers.
Even the allegation of trafficking in child porn is life ending, even if you are found innocent. The whole program was potentially ruinous for anybody involved.
Could that be considered "intent" or "conspiracy" to produce child porn?
Depends how zealous the prosecutor is.
Just out of curiosity, why are you featuring this story now? The event happened years ago, and the payout happened years ago. Is there a new development?
This is a truly scary / humorous story--best put into music:
Good thing they didn't see the him steaming vegetables or fertilizing his window boxes, or the poor kid probably would've gotten SWATted...
Note that PA law specifically exempts inadvertent viewing of sexually explicit material featuring minors:
"The deliberate, purposeful, voluntary viewing of material depicting a
child under 18 years of age engaging in a prohibited sexual act or in
the simulation of such act. The term shall not include the accidental or
inadvertent viewing of such material."
I don't think a prosecutor could prevail on child porn charges in PA if nude photos were inadvertently taken, but as you point out even having your name in a newspaper associated with a prosecutor who is contemplating such charges could pretty much screw your life forever.
I figure some of the people who secretly took thousands of pictures of unsuspecting children and then spent hundreds of hours poring over those pictures are today still spending many hours looking at pictures of children that should not have been taken.
School systems are like honeypots for pedophiles, and always have been. The less external regulation, the more they are enabled. The more internal authoritarianism, the more they are enabled.
It's like the reason Willy Sutton robbed banks - because that's where the money was. The pedophiles will always want to be in the churches, day care, schools and police uniforms because that's how they can get trusted to touch children without parents around. Some organizations, like the Catholic church, will actually cover up child abuse; how could a pedophile resist the allure of such an environment?
The people who created the school computer spying system had to know the potential for abuse, and the potential liability, but they somehow convinced themselves it was a good idea anyway. That sounds like compulsive behavior to me; rationalizing away the dangers to satisfy an uncontrollable need.
More to the point, they flat out admitted that they were watching the videos of kids in their bedrooms. That's how the story broke in the first place. The software was supposed to be used to recover stolen laptops, which is fine, but if that's the case why are you using it on laptops that have not been reported as stolen?
If you're of the tinfoil hat persuasion, you could point out that these cameras could also collect blackmail material that could be used against the teenagers. Oh, you were smoking pot eh? I bet that college you're applying for would love to hear about that...
Day camps and away camps are especially appealing, as well. When I look back on my childhood, I realize only now that a few notable characters in those places were pedos. I never let any of 'em get me, and I naturally by my wits stayed near the trusted adults who weren't creepy and would make sure I was safe. I never saw any abuse, but looking back, I know it happened. Yeesh. Sickening.
I have always assumed that my work used my work-issued computer to spy on employees. They are a bit too overfond of surveillance cameras, and there have been a number of instances of staff accessing the camera feed inappropriately. Though why anyone would want to look at pictures of me lying on my couch and the inevitable looking-at-the-computer-double-chin I can't begin to guess.
"and everyone involved went to jail" seems to have been left off the bottom of the article.
Because if I installed software that secretly took pictures of people in their homes on their computer, I would expect to be immediately buried under an avalanche of criminal charges.
The law usually assumes that a person intends the natural consequences of his or her actions. I doubt there'd be much problem with intent if someone deliberately put a camera in a kid's bedroom. This is maybe a step removed from that, but if the cameras are on at normal bed and getting up times, maybe not that much of a step.
The thing that really gets me--but which also defends them in a bizarre way--is that they admitted it. Like, they actually thought that Robbins' parents would be totally understanding and appreciative of a heads-up that he was taking "drugs" in his room with his shirt off.
To me, that implies that they were completely fucking delusional, but probably not pedophiles. They genuinely believed that this was a reasonable and appropriate thing to do.
Of course, the corollary to this is to never trust your children to adults who actually want to interact with children...
However, your point about rationalizing away common sense to attack some bizarre perceived threat is a good one.
I remember having a sort of strange conversation with my kids once...
ME: Why should you do what the teachers tell you to do?
KIDS: Because they are teachers! Always do what teacher says!
ME: No, the teachers don't really have the right to tell anybody to do anything. And Mommy and I are the only ones who can boss you around. So why should you do what the teachers tell you to do?
ME: It's because Mommy and I want you to learn a lot, because you're so smart you take a lot of teaching. So we have told you to listen to your teachers and do what the teachers say. It's not because they are teachers, it's because Mommy or I told you to listen to them. If they tell you to do something Mommy or I would not like, you do not have to do it. But you should be nice about it, don't be mean to teachers or Mom will get mad.
I'm still not really sure they understood, conditional delegation of authority is a hard concept to put across to a kindergartener. But they are teenagers now so they don't listen to anybody anyway.
When bOING bOING originally reported this, I was very skeptical of the allegations, and wanted to wait until all the evidence came in, because No One Could Be That Stupid.
But they were.
This seems to match the pattern of some school officials believing that it's their prerogative to monitor and even punish students for things they do outside of school, for actions that don't involve the school or school personnel, or for actions that are clearly covered by free speech, but that they just don't approve of.
When I went to church camp in high school, I learned about the American Episcopal Church's policy response to their own abuse scandals: an adult who works for the Church, whether priest, camp counselor, or janitor, is not allowed to be alone in a room on church property with a minor for any reason, ever. If you need to talk to a kid privately, you find a third person and ask them to sit in.
IIRC, this has been national Church policy for at least 20 years, long before pastoral abuse was a major discussion topic in America. That's the right way to do it.
(I don't remember the details, but I assume they've got reasonable guidelines and exceptions in place for. e.g., a church employee and their own child.)