When the family of a Camden County 12-year-old girl accepted a school-issued laptop for their daughter to complete work during the 2017-2018 school year, they assumed it would be locked down and configured to prevent access to sites that could potentially cause harm and risk to a child. Instead, the girl used the laptop to download Discord – a chat and messaging platform primarily used for communication within the gaming community.
It was on Discord that she met Liam Heim, at the time a 21-year-old Florida resident and sexual predator. Heim used Discord to stay in touch with the girl and eventually told her he was making plans to travel to New Jersey to meet her and would hurt himself if she refused.
The two initially met at a Collinswood, New Jersey park but later took a bus into Philadelphia where Heim took the girl to a hotel and repeatedly sexually assaulted her over the course of 36 hours. Police eventually raided the location and rescued the minor after her parents reported her as missing. Heim is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence and will be monitored for the rest of his life upon his eventual release.
According to their lawsuit, the parents of the girl assert that the school system handed out the laptops but failed to monitor or limit what students could do with the devices. The suit goes on to allege that the school district neglected to create a policy framework to address email and chatroom usage, nor did it adopt child internet safety regulations put out by county, state, or federal authorities. In addition, repeated requests made by the girl’s parents to see her browser history prior to her attack went unfulfilled.
Neither the school district nor its superintendent commented on the lawsuit or the terms of the settlement when asked.