Apparently, some school district was remotely accessing the webcams on school-issued laptops even while students were at home. The feature was intended to find stolen laptops, but it looks like it was used for more than just that:
According to the suit, Harriton vice principal Lindy Matsko told Blake on Nov. 11 that the school thought he was "engaged in improper behavior in his home." She allegedly cited as evidence a photograph "embedded" in his school-issued laptop.
I mean, who knows. It's been suggested that the student could have been using school servers for some sort of illicit underage webcamming activity through the laptop, and that's how the school was alerted to the situation. And if he was using their servers, they'd have a right to punish him for that, of course.
But that seems an unlikely hypothetical. And barring something like that, whatever the "improper behavior" was...is irrelevant. It happened at home, not school, so the school shouldn't have such jurisdiction. At least not to positively punish (though I can perhaps see the argument for taking away privileges, like sports team participation, for drug and alcohol citations, etc).
But even if it was something that directly affected school-work and which they'd normally have a right to punish for if they found out (like something touching on academic integrity; cheating at home is still cheating)...they found still out about it in a totally illicit manner, and illicitly obtained evidence should never be usable. The only thing the remote access to the cameras should be used for is in the case of a stolen laptop. They shouldn't use the information any other way.
Boy, I bet WCC would love something like this for their students. Another way to insert the blessings of Authority into people's lives, right? The scary thing is, they probably could announce it openly, and some people would willingly sign a waiver and enthusiastically submit to the possibility of such monitoring. It just baffles and terrifies me.
Update, from the wikipedia article on the case: "On February 20, 2010, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Mark S. Haltzman of Lamm Rubenstone LLC, told MSNBC Live that the student had been eating "Mike and Ike" candy in front of the laptop assigned to him, in his own home. The attorney said that the school administrator had accused the student of using illegal drugs, after seeing him eating the candy in a webcam image. The lawyer said that his client's laptop had not been reported stolen or lost. The lawyer raised questions about who is deciding when to activate the webcam, and for what reasons."