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Free the Kutztown 13
August 9, 2005 3:41 PM   Subscribe

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 students, their families and outraged supporters say authorities are overreacting. The Kutztown Area School District begs to differ. A website –- Cut Us A Break – is dedicated to their situation. A hearing is set for Aug. 24 in Berks County juvenile court, where the 13 have been charged with computer trespass.
posted by ericb (73 comments total)

 
They did something they knew they weren't supposed to do. And now we are supposed to sympathise with them because of the consequences they face? Or we are suppose to think that they should get off because no everyone who is guilty of doing this is being charged? The more sensible reaction to that fact would be to charge the rest, not let the guilty go free.

So, they feel regret. Most people feel regret about getting caught; few feel regret about their actions. These kids and their enabling parents are trying to get a get out of accountability. There were warnings and these kids ignored them. Sounds to me like the exact kind of people who need to face real consequences before they understand that they shouldn't do things that they know are wrong.

"Cut as a break." Every guilty criminal in history has said the same thing. They aren't likely to get stiff punishments because of the facts, but they shouldn't be given "a break" and let off the hooks because of some whiney parents.
posted by dios at 3:53 PM on August 9, 2005


Wow. So they give kids laptops in high school now? The ingrates don't know how good they have it. And I agree with dios, actually - if they'd already been punished repeatedly for this, what did they expect?
posted by billysumday at 3:59 PM on August 9, 2005


How would their parents feel if all of their personal information that the school has was hacked into and disseminated? Or if a school employee put spyware onto their home machines while the kids were connected to the schools system from home to check on class grades or homework?
They would probably hire lawyers and throw fits about how loose the schools are, and the lack of security.

I doubt if any long term harm is going to come to these kids, but they do need to be made aware that IT power is not a license to
posted by buzzman at 4:03 PM on August 9, 2005


Spy.
posted by buzzman at 4:03 PM on August 9, 2005


They shouldn't be let off the hook but they aren't the only ones to blame here. The school did the minimum to "secure" the computers and was amazed when some of the kids, some of which are undoubtedly pretty bright, figured out simple ways to bypass the lame ass security.

Sometimes rules aren't enough. You can make a rule about kids having to stay away from the cobra pit out next to the dodgeball court but wouldn't it be alot better and more useful to put a cover over the pit instead?

I'm not saying the kids aren't responsible, especially since they got caught a bunch of times and were disciplined. But the school didn't change their security measures so what did they expect? The kids to miraculously just stop figuring out how to get around the blocks? And they expect that not giving kids condoms will keep them from having sex too?

The kids are to blame, yes but so is the school. And felonies? That's a tad extreme but it did finally get their attention.
posted by fenriq at 4:07 PM on August 9, 2005


What a clusterfuck....
posted by mr_roboto at 4:08 PM on August 9, 2005


Blame the school? Are you kidding? You need a serious class in accountability and causation.

Blame me for not putting steal bars on my doors when a criminal breaks in and steal something. It's clearly my fault, too, right?

That is asinine, fenriq.
posted by dios at 4:12 PM on August 9, 2005


They taped the password to the back of the computers??

They should absolutely be charged, but that doesn't change the fact that the school administrators are clearly idiots.
posted by duck at 4:14 PM on August 9, 2005


I can tell you without a doubt that many/most pre-secondary school have poor configurations and even worse staff. I have no sympathy for incompetence. Filing felonies against children is nearly always a method to coverup and misdirect blame for the incompetence.
posted by MrLint at 4:16 PM on August 9, 2005


Excite.com?!?!? Did I just flash back to 1998?
posted by mrgrimm at 4:17 PM on August 9, 2005


Schools always put lame-ass security (stupid and poor) security on their computers. It's like pathological. Bypassing the security on the school computers was a sport in my high school, because the security made it difficult to do basic things. No one I know purposefully damaged the computers.

That said, it's one thing for the kids to bypass the security on the computers that were given to them, but another thing to install Spyware on the network and spy on the administration.

That said, the fact that simple hacking, without malicious intent is a felony is retarded.

They should be punished, sure, but I don't see that giving them, or anyone else who did what they did felony records is reasonable. Breaking into someone's computer is not the same thing as breaking into someone's house.
posted by delmoi at 4:20 PM on August 9, 2005


Reason #125 that computers have no place in a public school.
posted by madajb at 4:20 PM on August 9, 2005


For the first time in a dog's age, I'm totally, completely with dios on this one -- the school appears to have spent an inordinate amount of time going over the acceptable use policy with both the students and their parents, and the students chose to knowingly violate it. They haven't a single atom of sympathy from me for getting their due on this one. Additionally, it seems that the school even spent time stressing that if the parents wanted their kids to participate in the laptop program, they had to take some element of responsibility for the use of the computer at home -- and these are now the same parents who, after signing the acceptable use policy, want the school district and the police to cut their kids a break. It's a tough world, and it appears that it's all the more tough when your parents behave like irresponsible dolts.

And fenriq and MrLint, your logic amazes me -- it's the same as blaming someone whose house is burgled into when they forget to lock a window. Sure, the person forgot to lock a window, an oversight for which he might feel a little daft... but it's still the jackhole who crawled through the window and stole property that's to blame, nobody else. With a clear acceptable use policy, the school shouldn't have to put even one byte of filtering or administrative restriction software on the machine -- the policy is the restriction, and signing it is an oath that you'll abide by its terms. The school didn't have to give these kids computers, but chose to under clear terms, and the kids broke 'em. Morons.
posted by delfuego at 4:25 PM on August 9, 2005


They should be punished, sure, but I don't see that giving them, or anyone else who did what they did felony records is reasonable.

If there are prosecuted as juveniles, it shouldn't be necessary.
posted by 3.2.3 at 4:29 PM on August 9, 2005


My favorite quote from that CutUsABreak site:

"Good students are curious in their areas of interest and the students learned how to reconfigure their laptops. They learned how to download programs and music from the internet. They learned how to download programs that allowed them to chat with their friends. They learned a lot. And, a few kids gained access to inappropriate imagery."

Oh, so good students violate the terms by which the computers were given to them. I get it, now!
posted by delfuego at 4:31 PM on August 9, 2005


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.

... after repeated warnings and disciplinary actions, a few students continued to misuse the school-issued laptops to varying degrees ...

How about taking away their laptops instead of charging them with felonies?

Remember that all of the felonious "computer trespass" occured on laptops that were given to the students by the school district.

I agree that the school should be able to discipline the students internally, but I don't think a crime was committed. It's an interesting case.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:32 PM on August 9, 2005


These are kids, kids are stupid. They put the passwords on the back of the computers and used part of the school's address as a password?

Yes, the school is partially responsible for ridiculous "security measures".

delfuego, I'm not saying the kids aren't culpable but don't try to make it out like the school did everything in its power to make the system as secure as it could (yes, I know, limited resources, blah, blah, blah, they were able to get 600 iBooks).

This isn't about leaving a window unlocked. This is about taping the key to your front door to the front door and leaving a note saying "Please don't use this key to get into the house."
posted by fenriq at 4:34 PM on August 9, 2005


Dios, you don't know what you're talking about here.

I've worked for school districts in IT and in this case the administration really screwed up.

First, the IT department really did not know what they were doing at all, not only technically, but in what they should have been expecting from their students. I'd fire whomever was in charge of implementing the laptop program.

Second, related to the above point, the school did not have their shit together when it came to disciplining students over laptop related infractions. Yeah, they issued a few detentions, but didn't fix the underlying security issues nor did they really address the discipline problem. Parents had not been contacted. Discipline options between ineffective detention and the destructive step of filing charges were not used or even considered. In places I've worked, this sort of thing would have been taken care of effectively without resort to the police and parents would have known about it.

The students definitely deserve some form of in school punishment, but charging them with felonies does no one any good.

The 13 students charged are being scapegoated.

The real problems - ridiculously unprofessional IT planning and half-assed discipline procedures - are not being addressed due to the scapegoating. So the problem remains, along with 80+ students who have also been messing around, making the laptops a net educational liability due to the distraction.

A significant portion of the local community is now alienated from the school administration and regards them as an enemy. This will probably linger in institutional memory at least until the current administrators who messed this up are gone.

The administration itself has brought ignominy upon itself that won't go away when they could have taken care of the problem if they had simply addressed the root causes of the problem instead of being unwilling to admit their mistakes. I've worked with some folks like this and they are far more of a problem than any of the kids in this scenario.

basically, by going the felony route the administration ensured that their mistakes were going to face the harsh light of publicity when they could have taken care of everything properly in school if they had two brain cells to rub together.
posted by ursus_comiter at 4:35 PM on August 9, 2005


fenriq, I'll just say that a lot of people leave keys places for times they're locked out -- in little fake rocks, under plants, etc. -- and this still doesn't give a burgler the right to break in. It don't matter how easy you make it, the fault still lies with the burgler.
posted by delfuego at 4:39 PM on August 9, 2005


I wonder, did it ever occur to them to change the password?
posted by cedar at 4:39 PM on August 9, 2005


delfuego writes "it's the same as blaming someone whose house is burgled into when they forget to lock a window."

fenriq writes "This is about taping the key to your front door to the front door and leaving a note saying 'Please don't use this key to get into the house.'"

There's a special place in argument hell for computer security metaphors....
posted by mr_roboto at 4:40 PM on August 9, 2005


Schools always put lame-ass security (stupid and poor) security on their computers. It's like pathological.

Unfortunately (and obviously I can't speak for all educational institutions), being tasked with security in an educational institution is a no-win situation.

I've worked with some very talented folks who would like nothing better than to lock down desktops, harden server security, or even get funding for firewalls etc. However, the ever-widening gap between industry-aware faculty/administration is a large crevasse to cross. Even more so when the schools and departments have the bastion of academic freedom in their arsenal.

It's a slippery-slope. I'm not excusing the IT department at this particular school, however, it sounds like they implemented a program without having the requisite knowledge or backing to support it properly. We have to remember, this is a high-school. I doubt they have the resources to deal with these types of situations.

I'm sympathetic for the kids, really. However, the school did have a published AUP, did attempt to punish some of the kids through detentions and even notified the parents. Yeah, the security sucked, and maybe their disciplinary procedures need to be re-visited, but these kids knew what they were doing was wrong and kept on doing it even after all signs indicated stop.

It's sad it had to go that far, but hopefully they'll learn something from it.
posted by purephase at 4:53 PM on August 9, 2005


delfuego, I agree with you. I'm not saying it made it alright to break the security procedures. But the school all but handed them each a key and then asked them not to use it. That's just stupid on their part.

But its also important to keep in mind that these are kids. Kids aren't treated as adults for a good reason, they're not usually fully capable of seeing the real consequences for their actions.

mr_roboto, good thing I'm an athiest then.
posted by fenriq at 4:54 PM on August 9, 2005


Blaming the school is like blaming the burglary victim for not locking their door. The victim has contributed to the situation but that doesn't mitigate the burglar's guilt.

Felony seems kind of stiff. To bad they can't dig up a nice misdemeanor to charge them with.
posted by Carbolic at 4:57 PM on August 9, 2005


Is a computer like a house. Has anyone else thought of that metaphor?
posted by Carbolic at 5:00 PM on August 9, 2005


I doubt they have the resources to deal with these types of situations.</i.

They had the resources to buy 600 laptops. If they're going to invest that kind of money and not also ensure that they have somone on board who knows what they're doing, then they really should not have implemented the program in the first place.

posted by ursus_comiter at 5:03 PM on August 9, 2005


Carbolic, my computer isn't like a house because my computer doesn't have any Windows. Hahahahaha.
posted by fenriq at 5:07 PM on August 9, 2005


These are kids, kids are stupid.

Exactly. It's hard to remember how I rationalized all the stupid behavior I took part in when I was a high school student. And I did engage in a lot of stupid behavior. Now I'm 28 and am now a contributing member of my community. If I had a felony record because of some stupid behavior I was a part of in high school, I hate to think that it would have been harder to get where I am today.

I agree they need to be disciplined, but felony charges do not an appropriate punishment make in this case.
posted by chowder at 5:07 PM on August 9, 2005


Is a computer like a house. Has anyone else thought of that metaphor?

No, but then the metaphor doesn't really hold.
posted by Rothko at 5:12 PM on August 9, 2005


If they're going to invest that kind of money and not also ensure that they have somone on board who knows what they're doing, then they really should not have implemented the program in the first place.

Easier said than done. Here's some information on the One-to-One laptop initiative. They went with it because it was cheaper than refitting existing facilities.

Here's a few excerpts:
Apple Computer staff will have monthly meetings with the district's technology staff.

This is the only mention of technical support for staff mentioned in the overview. They talk about support for faculty, but I doubt there is any emphasis on security.

There is an obvious question regarding computer bags. Each student computer must be carried in a padded, school-approved bag. The district is pleased that there are offers from individuals and businesses in the community to donate the cost of an appropriate bag.

This is their main concern in the overview. They couldn't afford bags for chrissakes, and they're being chastised for their lack of security? Come on. Their implementation committee is made up primarily of parents and they are relying on donations and state funding in order to support the program.

Just look at their website!
posted by purephase at 5:16 PM on August 9, 2005


fenriq, that was LAME. I laughed.

Rothko.........
posted by Carbolic at 5:41 PM on August 9, 2005


A bunch of you need to recall highschool and lighten the fuck up. Jail time for installing iChat.

Let's use a different metaphor. Let's say the school handed out rifles to the students and lo and behold, someone gets shot. Do any of you really think that the school would be so totally blameless? Maybe you'd want to ensure that all reasonable steps were taken, that the guns weren't handed out with extra bullets taped to their stock.

But of course these kids didn't do anything like murder or manslaughter. They didn't do anything like burglary either. They did something like trespassing, but trespassing in a place where they were half-invited anyway. It's really like loitering outside a 7-11, or for jaywalking while chasing down the ice cream truck. This "crime" ranks below TP-ing for Christ's sake.

When you give something to a minor, you are partially responsible for their use or misuse of that item. The school wants to jail kids for harmless misuse of stuff they put in their hands in the first place.
posted by fleacircus at 5:45 PM on August 9, 2005


I've had plenty of experience with schools jumping at "free money " for things that have hidden costs that administrators either don't think about or choose to ignore. I stand by my statement. They need to be able to do it right or they shouldn't do it. The very first thing that should have come up was the staffing issues involved.

Seriously, if the choice is a really poorly thought out program for giving kids laptops or not having computers around at all, not having computers around is the better choice pedagogically.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:48 PM on August 9, 2005


They broke the rules. They KNEW they were breaking the rules. They did it anyway.

Now they want us to cut them a break because they are "just children".

To quote Elvis Costello.....

"Let Em' Dangle"

Todays innocent high school hacker is tommorrow's spam king.

Have fun in the pound em in the disc drive juvie hall ya little punks.

ts
posted by timsteil at 6:03 PM on August 9, 2005


This whole this is just stupid. Sure, the kids were wrong in breaking the rules and abusing the computers. I mean, damn, iChat was on a bunch and one of them was even viewing pornography. I bet those irresponsible little buggers even downloaded some stolen music. You know, pretty much what every high school kid in the country is doing with his or her computer.

It's absurd for these children to risk a felony conviction (not that I really see this happening) for simply being kids. If the school cannot implement a decent security system, take the friggin' computers away until you figure out how they work. Don't punish your best and brightest for doing what comes naturally to kids. Better yet, don't set unreasonable expectations and create a situation where the kids have to jump through hoops that require them to gain admin rights to perform normal computer tasks (there is nothing esoteric or wrong with iChat and it might even help with their studies). It's like entrapment by stupidity.

Myself, I would like to know exactly what kind of monitoring tools were on these computers. Are these kids being punished for improper usage at home where it was made clear that "appropriate use is the family's responsibility"? It strikes me as foolish to give these kids computers and then attempt to play Big Brother and control the way they are used. Aside from being an exercise in futility, I wonder how it's going to go in court. Can a minor even be held liable for violating a contract (AUP)? They better hope like hell the judge doesn't have a sixteen-year old at home chatting away on AIM.

My daughter plays the harp and has one on loan from the school (significantly more valuable than an iBook) and sometimes she plays music that isn't part of her curriculum. Then again, the harp isn't part of the big scary online world where porn addictions are ruining young lives, pedophiles are climbing through DSL lines and Dad's Sony stock is tanking because Jr. has 3 gigs of .mp3.
posted by cedar at 6:10 PM on August 9, 2005


the school did not have their shit together when it came to disciplining students over laptop related infractions. Yeah, they issued a few detentions, but didn't fix the underlying security issues nor did they really address the discipline problem. Parents had not been contacted.

According to the administration:

"...after repeated warnings and disciplinary actions, a few students continued to misuse the school-issued laptops to varying degrees. The disciplinary actions included detentions, in-school suspensions, loss of Internet access, and loss of computer privileges. After each disciplinary action, parents received either written notification or telephone calls."

I wonder, did it ever occur to them to change the password?

According to the linked article:

"The administrative password on some laptops was subsequently changed but some students got hold of that one, too, and decrypted it with a password-cracking program they found on the Internet."


I agree that being convicted of a felony and getting jail time would be too harsh. However, the students aren't as innocent as some here seem to think. I wonder if the school district will really shoot for a felony conviction. They are likely trying to set an example, scare the kids, and get a plea.

They better get used to not fucking with other's computers now. Do that kind of shit at any company and you'll be lucky to only lose your job.
posted by Bort at 6:19 PM on August 9, 2005


Most School System's computer security is not only fairly easily circumvented, but horribly, horribly implemented. Makes it absolutely impossible to actually use the computer for anything. They usually manage to fuck up even the simplest things, like being able to actually use Microsoft Office.

Furthermore, they're usually wide open to viruses and spyware, and the user is rareley afforded the priveleges to be able to remove them or protect themselves from them. Students are often blocked from being able to use Firefox, even PortableFirefox.

Circumventing computer security in secondary schools is not only a rite of passage, but neccessary to actually get work done.

A well put-together school IT setup locks down the network, uses a domain to access the network, and affords the local user almost complete control over their box. Then you just make it very very easy to reimage them when they get fucked up.

I once set up a computer lab so that the user could do whatever they wanted, but any changes made weren't to the real filesystem, and dissapeared when they rebooted. Worked perfectly
posted by blasdelf at 6:39 PM on August 9, 2005


They better get used to not fucking with other's computers now.

This is where I'm unclear... I expect that the school kept ownership of the computers but considering they went as far as to state that home use would be the parents job to monitor, ownership isn't as clear cut as using a computer at work to hack into the payroll department.

This is much closer to using to using a company laptop for personal email or browsing after you take it home for the weekend or on a business trip.

If anything these kids hacked themselves using software that the school installed on their computers. If the school had used a little foresight and accepted what any parent who has ever tried to install a filter on a teenagers computer could have told them, this whole thing could have been prevented. Remember, the monitoring software was in place to keep an eye on the kids, all the kids did was turn the tables on them. I have a hard time coming down on those who watch the watchers. I expect that pursuing this is going to bite that school district in the ass as it works it way through the courts. One angry parent with a few bucks to throw at lawyers and they have a public relations nightmare on their hands.
posted by cedar at 6:41 PM on August 9, 2005


good thing I'm an athiest then.

Then you really, really should learn how to spell it. It reflects poorly on atheists as a whole, you know, when you butcher the word like that. It's easy to remember how to spell it correctly: it ends in "ist", as in, a person who believes in an "ism". Very simple.
posted by beth at 6:43 PM on August 9, 2005


beth, thanks ever so much for the reminder, I'll be sure to keep watch out for you when I mistype cheif.
posted by fenriq at 7:03 PM on August 9, 2005


I do believe athiest means "the most atheist."

To me it seems it's really a question of where the cookie jar was. The school had a cookie jar and told students they couldn't have the cookies. They set policies, had conferences, posted rules, but some of the students still took the cookies.

Was the cookie jar sitting in the middle of the school hallway, waiting to be pilfered? I'm sure nobody would be too surprised when the cookies disappeared in this situation, and they'd have a hard time justifying harsh punishment.

Was the cookie jar instead behind locked doors, heavily monitored, and padlocked? Certainly the effort to grab cookies in that scenario would have to be sophisitcated to the point where it was no casual effort.

I think this is really the distinction between felony and prank here, given that little real damage was done.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:33 PM on August 9, 2005


Yay, there's a Public Comments section at their website. I can hardly wait to tell the whiny little pricks off.


(OK, actually I'm jealous because when I was a kid we just had typewriters, and those weren't nearly as much fun to mess with. And you couldn't even take them home.)
posted by NorthernLite at 7:34 PM on August 9, 2005


blasdelf: Circumventing computer security in secondary schools is not only a rite of passage, but neccessary to actually get work done.

There's really school work that needs to be done in secondary school that can't be accomplished with a locked-down workstation? I'd love an example of a situation where such circumvention was actually neccessary.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:38 PM on August 9, 2005


When i was a sophomore, a real hacker friend of mine (I'm still somewhat clueless about real hacker shite) and i installed a virus onto the main server at the high school...he wrote it and i was the one that put the floppy in and executed the file. We formatted the server and placed a message on all the 'slaves' that said "this computer will self-destruct in 10...9...8..."

We got snitched on and both got a 10 day vacation....and it wasn't our first time.

It's a good thing all you fuckers weren't around back then or i'd have a felony record...not to mention all the other shit i did as an irresponsible youngster in high school...
posted by schyler523 at 8:01 PM on August 9, 2005


blasdelf writes "A well put-together school IT setup locks down the network, uses a domain to access the network, and affords the local user almost complete control over their box. Then you just make it very very easy to reimage them when they get fucked up."

This is exactly the way to do it. Fortunately for me, I work in an educational environment that has provided me with both the funds and the authority to make this happen. This is not a cheap solution (well, depending on the number of machines you are responsible for) and while I'm far from the best in this particular environment, my salary is probably a lot higher than most high school administrators.

As I said earlier, I do sympathize with the kids. The parents could (and should) have prevented this from happening. After all, according to the the school boards press release the parents signed the AUP as well. Fifteen years-old is old enough to know right from wrong, and it's unfortunate that it had to come to this. I doubt the school will push for maximum penalty. The worse they'll get is some community service which is already mandatory for some (PDF) high school students.
posted by purephase at 8:02 PM on August 9, 2005


Rothko.........
posted by Carbolic at 8:41 PM EST on August 9 [!]


Your metaphor is a poor one that looks good on the surface but has many holes in it. I'll point you to one recent example.
posted by Rothko at 8:05 PM on August 9, 2005


what a complete farce.

This website and news story is a sham to generate comments such as Dios' first one in the thread.

IT power is not a license to posted by buzzman at 7:03 PM EST on August 9 [!] Spy.

I don't know if anyone else noticed but some days it's like if you aren't keeping your eyes peeled, that is to say, using the tools available to keep yourself informed, then you are in the minority. Sure the local powers would like you to stay down and shut up, but you'll notice no one else does.

Just find someone smaller than you, and tell them to stay down and shut up. Get it.

And besides, if you need a license to collect and use information, then someone needs to tell the corps.
posted by nervousfritz at 8:18 PM on August 9, 2005


This is an enormous waste of taxpayer money.

The kids deserve some sort of in-school disciplinary action, and possibly some sort of black mark on the academic records.
posted by mosch at 8:28 PM on August 9, 2005


blasdelf: Circumventing computer security in secondary schools is not only a rite of passage, but neccessary to actually get work done.

There's really school work that needs to be done in secondary school that can't be accomplished with a locked-down workstation? I'd love an example of a situation where such circumvention was actually neccessary.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:38 PM PST on August 9 [!]
Most School IT MSCE® morons don't actually lock the computer down from being "hacked" as much as they prevent you from keeping your computer working (and not savaged by malware) so you can browse the web and type up your homework.

Most of the people working in secondary school IT departments are there because they couldn't get a job in a corporate setting and enjoy wielding power over children.

There are few good apples, but the good apples shine.
posted by blasdelf at 8:30 PM on August 9, 2005


To put it simpler, the 'locked-down' school computers generally don't work due to incompetent IT, and you commit a felony if you fix them. God Forbid.
posted by blasdelf at 8:32 PM on August 9, 2005


Or you could just not use them... or has use of unusable computers for school assignments now become mandatory?
posted by VulcanMike at 8:39 PM on August 9, 2005


I can't believe some are arguing that the school is at fault and implying the school should have had tighter, and more locked down IT systems.

Saying the school didn't do its job is to make life harder for the people that come after these jerks. Now the next person will a computer that may only get a whitelist of acceptable web sites browsable only through the school proxy/firewall or some such. Man, with all the headaches I have to go through at work, where at least my IT department is competent, though overzealous, I can't imagine the insane stuff an underfunded, security paranoid IT group would do in that situation.

The right thing to do is to trust the people that use the computers to follow the damn rules. And bust their balls when they don't.

It is not the schools fault. Its the kids wanting to prove that they're smarter and better than the school officials. Wll they both succeeded and failed at that.
posted by forforf at 8:52 PM on August 9, 2005


Yay security through obscurity... Wait, they taped it where!? Freaking idiots!!
posted by loquacious at 9:00 PM on August 9, 2005


apologies for the misspellings and bad grammar above.
posted by forforf at 9:07 PM on August 9, 2005


These kids hacked their computers for the same reason they download music off the interwebs... it doesn't seem wrong and it doesn't seem like anyone is getting hurt and it immediately makes their computers more useful and/or fun.

I think the music analogy is pretty good... yeah it's illegal, yeah we all know it's illegal, but an awful lot of people do it anyway.

All in all I don't think the kids did anything surprising nor do I think they did anything intentionally wrong, with the exception of those who decided to monitor the administrator's machines.

Just because it's ironic doesn't mean it's right.
posted by gambit at 9:25 PM on August 9, 2005


Let me get this straight -- you nearly all seem to want *felony* charges for a bunch of kids who broke school rules but did nothing to hurt one single person and (should have) cost not one penny to anyone? (Even an incompetent sysadmin should simple re-image laptops that come in as a matter of course).

You're awful people. How can you live with yourselves?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:39 PM on August 9, 2005


This is ridiculous - while we're doing metaphors, this is the digital equivalent of writing in a library book. Yes, they altered the computers and should pay to have them re-imaged, but the idea that a school would attempt to jail teenagers for their natural intellectual curiosity is sickening.
posted by jba at 9:52 PM on August 9, 2005


The increasing tendency of schools to throw up their hands and invoke the legal system for misbehaviors that used to only involve schools, students, and parents, is worrisome.

Add me to the chorus of those who find that schools' IT policies and facilities make it impossible to actually use the technology. Aside from the fact that all compters in my building are locked down so that one can only save to a server that was working about 25% of the time, there was also the complete inability to make any kind of local changes. I had designed an internet project for my students, but the computer was locked so that I couldn't put a bookmark or shortcut to the site on the machine. I asked for "permission" to do this, and the head of IT for the district said he'd have to do it himself, but that it would take him a few weeks to get to the school.

The computers in my classroom are either my own old machines or donated - the one "official" school computer is the least-used machine in the room.

The kids knowingly broke the rules, and should be punished. I'd be a lot happier if they were punished within the school context (suspension, letter in the official file, even a threat of having to repeat a year). But given that it's been fobbed off on the legal system, I'd settle for community service, and any mention of the incidents deleted from the criminal justice system at the conclusion of said community service. This is not the sort of thing that should mess up a kids' ability to get into college; these sorts of offenses shouldn't result in screwing up a kid's whole life.
posted by Chanther at 10:35 PM on August 9, 2005


High schoolers may be dumb but they're not stupid.

Just because they're dumb enough to not be able to conceive being caught doesn't mean they don't know what they're doing is wrong.
posted by HTuttle at 11:28 PM on August 9, 2005


"...Kutztown’s One to One Computer Initiative...[made] it mandatory for ~600 high school students to carry and use an Apple laptop computer in order to participate in the education process at their high school.... [When AUP violations were detected,] detentions and in-school suspensions were handed to kids... This was hardly a deterrent, though, as the kids were able to take their laptops and play video games during their “punishment.”... Unfortunately our program did not allow for the temporary suspension of computer privileges. Some kids who had trouble resisting temptation tried to turn in their laptops and were forced by the administration to take them back..."

It's astounding how badly this entire program has been run. Nothing about a high school education should make carrying a laptop to school mandatory. A blessing, a privilege, and a darned handy thing, but not freakin' mandatory. For one, kids already are developing back pain and other problems from being weighted down with so many heavy textbooks. Mandating another 5+ pounds every day should not be Plan A.

Yes, the kids broke the AUP. But doesn't this somehow qualify as entrapment? They're required to accept the laptop, the spyware, and the AUP. They're literally handed the (highly crackable, highly guessable, and anyway WRITTEN IN PLAIN SIGHT) password by the district's IT morons. Then when caught doing the obvious, they're given a nice big block of free time to devote to more pursuit of forbidden stuff, for cryin' out loud. And they're not even allowed to opt out in favor of simply using a lab computer or home machine instead.

Absurd.

Of course the students need to be disciplined for breaking the rules. But at the academic level, not in criminal court. Meanwile the district admins sure as hell need to be disciplined for setting up such a crap program. It's hard enough for districts to raise necessary funds for academic computing, without stories like this to spook families out of participating.

The PA law they're being charged under is rather...broad. The way it's written, how many of us would be looking at felony records for ordinary workplace mods (*cough* Firefox) or "causing" Windows to crash by our reckless act of, um, opening some window?
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:38 PM on August 9, 2005


Most of you people haven't been to high school in the last 5-10 years have you? High school is full of stuipid rules. In order to keep myself entertained I would break any rule that got in my way.Was I a good student? . I snuck into the district and raised the SAT average . "Don't walk in the hall without a pass". F that shit.
posted by Rubbstone at 12:08 AM on August 10, 2005


If the problem was "recurring" and "ongoing", how is it that the parents were not told, even while evidence was being gathered for prosecution, until the charges were pressed and it was too late?!

Feloney charges are completely innappropriate.

The school went from what they laughably call a "detention" during which the kids were free to play video games to pass the time, to pressing feloney charges without ever exploring even vaguely appropriate discipline options. That is uttery WRONG.

The transgressions were so commonplace that the school decided to nuke a few to make examples to rest. Without trying appropriate discipline measures first. That is wrong.

The kids are just as guilty as the school, but those of you saying the school was a faultless victim here, are utterly wrong.

An appropriate responses that would stop all abuse cold would be revoking laptop priveledges. Informing the parents, in some families, works, and even where the effect is minimal, it ought to be done anyway.

Sending your kids to a school that would deny you the ability to discipline your kids, preferring instead to keep their trangressions quiet, while secretly compiling files in order to give them feloney records in the hopes of scaring hundreds of other kids into line? Fire the school administrator. That is a despicable way to run an institution. Absolutely despicable!
posted by -harlequin- at 1:28 AM on August 10, 2005


This is insanity.

So, they feel regret. Most people feel regret about getting caught; few feel regret about their actions. These kids and their enabling parents are trying to get a get out of accountability. There were warnings and these kids ignored them. Sounds to me like the exact kind of people who need to face real consequences before they understand that they shouldn't do things that they know are wrong.

You know even less of compassion than you do of technology; I didn't know that was possible. None of this was cracking, none of this was dangerous. If installing spyware on public computers were a felony, there are a million - a million - dumbass high school administrators who should be in jail right now.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:52 AM on August 10, 2005


> this is the digital equivalent of writing in a library book

In pencil.

> nor do I think they did anything intentionally wrong,
> with the exception of those who decided to monitor the
> administrator's machines.

Personally, I'm not unsympathetic to that either. Big Brother
wants to monitor how I use my computer time? Well, he's
a public employee, my parents pay his wages, what's
sauce for the goose...

Of course, if they then went on to share confidential
information that they discovered in such a manner, that
would be wrong.

But knowing how many system administrators spend much
of their time surfing pr0n, I can see why they felt this was
something that needed cracking down on -- and hard.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:20 AM on August 10, 2005


Big Brother
wants to monitor how I use my computer time? Well, he's
a public employee, my parents pay his wages, what's
sauce for the goose...


Yes but this Big Brother owns the computers, and has been specifically tasked by the taxpayers to administer them, part of which means making sure that teenagers don't use them to surf pr0n, infringe copyrights, and spy on people.

Acting as though reciprocal rights exist in this circumstance doesn't even pass the laugh test.

When the teacher looks at your grades, that's called doing his/her job. When you look at your teacher's grades, that's called invasion of privacy. Yes, there is an unequal power relationship in the school environment. This should not be a surprise to anybody.

I think part of the problem is that there is a range of seriousness of these activities. Installing iChat is a lot more innocuous than putting spyware on administrators' computers.
posted by beth at 5:30 AM on August 10, 2005


From Cut Us A Break:

"• Educate the kids on what criminal charges are all about. They don’t know, and don’t tell us that ignorance is no excuse; it is the schools responsibility to educate."

And educate them they will. Here's how the real world works, kids.

I believe that this is just a scare tactic, and eventually a compromise will be reached. The administration's reaction is appropriate to the situation, cause when the kids said "Hey, look what we can do" the administration said "Hey, look what WE can do".
posted by boymilo at 6:36 AM on August 10, 2005


I'm glad that when we did similar things on school computers we had sane administrators.

They were happy to hear about the methods we used to do things we weren't supposed to and seemed genuinely pleased that students were pushing themselves.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:35 AM on August 10, 2005


Go to private school, did you, sonofsamiam?
posted by Kwantsar at 8:07 AM on August 10, 2005


Heh. At my high school, the students were responsible for creating the ethernet network, systems administration and tech support for the laptops and desktops around the school. They got credit for it. And it worked wonderfully, with kids making home-made routers and setting up internal websites and sharing science data. We started out with grants from the local university to set it up, then ended up with grants to expand the program to other schools, using the system that we had developed.
And hell yes, there were students who cracked the system and guessed passwords and downloaded porn (though this was in the early days of the web, so it was small pictures, etc.) and installed viruses. And you know what? The punishment involved fixing the networks to make them more secure, setting up monitoring filters and access levels, and teaching everyone how to create passwords that were hard to crack.
And yes, I went to a public school.
posted by klangklangston at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2005


Kwantsar: no. A low-income area public school.

The administation weren't a bunch of legalistic pricks, but mostly grown-ups who were confident enough in their own good judgement to administer genuinely appropriate punishments.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:05 AM on August 10, 2005


Aaaah...my dear, sweet Kutztown.

The perfect K-town day? Start at the top of the hill and go to the Used Bookstore (50% off EVERYTHING until Labor Day). Hit the Uptown for a double espresso before moseying down to Lee Klein's for a buzzcut ("high'n'tight, triple-aught above the ears"...15 bucks, including 3 dollar tip). Pop into Golden Avalanche (microbrewery) and throw back a cold one. Walk down 1.5 more blocks and turn right to go to the shopping center. Grab a turkey reuben at the Quality Shop. Polish it off with a cone and go over to the dollar store for some rawhide dog chews before walking over to Young Ones to say "hey" to Mark and look for obscure cd singles by The Fall or Franz Ferdinand.

Kutztown's claim to fame: Keith Haring, Kutztown High graduate whose family still stalk these mean streets.

/self-indulgent content

Looks like a bunch of script-kiddies invaded the privacy of their educators. I find that hard to defend on any level.
posted by red cell at 12:40 PM on August 10, 2005


whose family still stalk

make that "whose family still stalks"

Also: Klein cut his finger last month and still isn't barbering, so you'll have to wait or go into Anthony's 5 in W. Reading for a decent chop.
posted by red cell at 12:43 PM on August 10, 2005


Some of the "personal responsibility" enthusiasts posting here are just idiots.

A punishment needs to be appropriate to the crime committed. Yes, the kids broke the rules. Does that mean that they now deserve to be publicly beheaded? No. Does that mean they now deserve felony convictions and jail time? The answer is still no.

Children know right from wrong, but breaking the rules isn't always 'wrong'. You can't expect a child to have the maturity needed to not hack a computer, especially one they get to take home with them.
posted by delmoi at 10:55 PM on August 10, 2005


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