Kutztown students face felony charges for Apple iBook misuse

“They’re being called the Kutztown 13 — a group of high schoolers charged with felonies for bypassing security with school-issued laptops, downloading forbidden Internet goodies and using monitoring software to spy on district administrators,” The Associated Press reports. “The trouble began last fall after the district issued some 600 Apple iBook laptops to every student at the high school about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The computers were loaded with a filtering program that limited Internet access. They also had software that let administrators see what students were viewing on their screens.

“But those barriers proved easily surmountable: The administrative password that allowed students to reconfigure computers and obtain unrestricted Internet access was easy to obtain. A shortened version of the school’s street address, the password was taped to the backs of the computers,” AP reports. “The password got passed around, and students began downloading such forbidden programs as the popular iChat instant-messaging tool.”

“‘This does not surprise me at all,’ said Pradeep Khosla, dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s engineering department and director of the school’s cybersecurity program. IT staff at schools are often poorly trained, making it easy for students with even modest computer skills to get around security, he said,” AP reports. “Fifteen-year-old John Shrawder, one of the Kutztown 13, complained that the charges don’t fit the offense. He fears a felony conviction could hurt his college and job prospects. Shrawder’s uncle, James Shrawder, has set up a Web site that tells the students’ side of the story.”

“Students and parents were required to sign a code of conduct and acceptable use policy, which contained warnings of legal action,” AP reports. “The 13 students charged violated that policy, said Kutztown Police Chief Theodore Cole, insisting the school district had exhausted all options short of expulsion before seeking the charges. Cole said, however, that there is no evidence the students attacked or disabled the school’s computer network, altered grades or did anything else that could be deemed malicious.”

Full article here.

Shrawder’s website: http://www.cutusabreak.org/

MacDailyNews Take: Felony charges? Ridiculous. How about taking the iBooks away or at least taking them and setting up a secure admin password (and not taping it to the back of the screens) before giving them back to the students?

44 Comments

  1. This could have been prevented by using Windows XP.

    Everyone in the real IT world knows that massive deployment can only be acieved through a serious Enterprise OS.

    They should not be charged…. Using OS X is enough punishment.

    This policy will be better implemented when Vista is released.

    ©

  2. …ah, amusing. Two people speak up with voices and then the insults begin. Statistics prove that people that do not get punished for their crimes go on to repeat even bigger and badder crimes over time.

    Today’s “innocent prank” will be tomorrows hacker that goes on to steal credit card numbers from your bank. You’ll be bitching then, after someone has stolen your private and financial information!

    Listen, I might not necessarily agree that the punishment here fits the crime. In fact, it may be too stern, but rules are rules and the law is the law. THIS EQUIPMENT WAS NOT FREE FOR THEM TO DO WHATEVER MISCHEVIOUS BEHAIOUR THEY WANTED! The were given the rules and the violated them.

    Why in the hell do we bother writing laws if the rule of thum is gonna be, “Oh well, is was just an innocent prank… they should get a slap on the rist and a talking to.” NO. Let the kids have to spend some time explaining in the future why they were punished and what they did.

    We’re out of control here and parents who don’t raise their children properly shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it, just like their kids shouldn’t. I feel for these kids, I really do, but THEY blew it! Not the school!

  3. “These kids shoud be punished to the amont that their legally signed agreements allow.”

    Unless, of course, they know how to catch a ball. Then they can do anything they want, short of strangling a cheerleader after raping her… well, maybe the district’s lawyers could get the football player off for that, too!

    This story doesn’t give enough pertinent details. I’d be interested in seeing the full text of the agreement those kids signed. You know, to see if it explicitly states that violation of the agreement is remedied only with criminal charges being brought against them. “Legal Action” usually doesn’t include felony charges in a breach of contract case. And regardless of how you feel about the punishment, it does seem odd that they would press serious, potentially life-changing criminal charges before considering expulsion.

  4. Even if these kids do end up being charged, the computer use agrement will never hold up in court.

    Unless the school didn’t require the children to use laptops, the children and parents were “forced” to sign the agreements. Because these kids wwouldn’t have been able to participate in school, both the kids and the parents signed the agreement under duress.

  5. These kids should be given detentions, and during their mandatory detention time they should be required to teach a team of new IT administrators a little bit about computers. The old boneheaded IT guys should absolutely be fired. If downloading iChat onto these machines is a felony, then surely taping the admin password to the machines is criminal negligence, right?

    There is no way I would let my children attend public schools. They are run by drooling morons.

  6. “There is no way I would let my children attend public schools. They are run by drooling morons.”

    And attended by future drooling morons. No offense to anyone’s kids, but DANG!

    The issues with education and public schools is one of the major reasons that I’ve elected not to have children at all.

  7. …one last thing….

    I agee with “Yeah, throw the book at ’em!!”, there isn’t enough infromation here to make a final determination, but argument still stands IF, and that’s a big if, their signed agreement does in fact state the punishment being offered, even if it’s a “possible” punishemnt. Everyone knows you usually shake the tree with a stronger charge then plea it down to a lessor charge. This kids will hardly get a felony record, but if it clearly states in their agreement that it is a possiblity, then their parents are clearly at fault for not monitoring their behvaviour.

    ‘nough said, I’m off my soap-box!

  8. MDN has it right. FELONY charges!?!?!?!
    This is ridiculous. A felony is a serious charge. Look around, the powers that be are attempting to turn us into a nation of criminals.

    Lawyers also have their hands in this. They have to be stopped

  9. Craig. That kind of black-and-white thinking gets innocent people executed in Florida. Someone is convivted of murder, possibly on dubious evidence. Serves time on Death row. Goes through appeals. Just before the execution, vital evidence is found that proves his innocence, but the state just says, “Yeah, well, we’ve gone through the appeals system now, so we have no choice. we have to kill an innocent man. I’m real sorry about that”.

    This sort of thinking gets someone life in prison for three relatively minor offences that may not have harmed anyone else.

    Think back to when you were 15. Did you not do anything stupid at all ? Did you not try to deceive your teachers in any way ? Did you not lie ?

    What’s needed it common sense punishment. Nobody is saying they shouldn’t be punished, they’re just saying that making this into a felony offence is insane. Every single offence does not need the full force of the law and the maximum punishment. If it did, there would be more people IN prison than out.

    Sometimes you just need to scare kids. A friend of mine tried to buy some nike shoes when he was about 13. It was with a credit card that an adult had told him to go and use. Stupidly he did, and got arrested. Got taken to the police station. His father got the call and asked if it was OK to pick him up after work, like 4 hours later, and asked if it was OK if they could leave him in the cell. Then the police just needed to say “Let that be a lesson to you. Next time you’ll be in big trouble”. And he never did anything stupid l;ike that again. Sending the kid to a young offenders prison would have done no good at all. It probably would have turned him into a real criminal.

    Remember. These are kids. Kids make mistakes and society should help them learn how to fit in and how not to make those misatakes again. Society does not need to brand kids as trouble the moment they step out of line.

    Get a sense of perspective !

  10. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    almost as funny as those darn high school kids at Hanover Hs (in PA again). there a principal went ballistic when he learned the meaning of a hand gesture they all displayed in the school’s yearbook.

    this news is such a “Shocker”

    idiot school officials

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