Thursday, July 14, 2005

School-Issued Laptops: Some Lessons To Be Learned

At Pennsylvania's Kutztown Area Senior High School, all 600+ students were issued Apple iBook laptops. As one might expect, the machines came with the standard internet filter designed to prevent students from viewing porn and other inappropriate material.

And then at the beginning of the school year, some district employee got careless with the "administrative password," which allows for the disabling of the filter as well as district-installed spyware. The password was widely distributed among the student body.

Between 80 and 100 students took advantage of the district's carelessness and modified their computers accordingly.

The district didn't "catch-on" until May.

After finally learning what was happening, district authorities called the police, and now
13 students face felony charges.

Should the students be disciplined for what they did? It would be my guess that they knew that what they were doing was in violation of the "acceptable use policy" that the district probably had them sign before being issued the computers. But I think that criminal charges (especially a felony) is an over reaction. Perhaps a suspension or loss of privileges would have been more appropriate.

Of course, the real villain of the piece is the employee who compromised the district's security system in the first place. It remains unknown whether Superintendent Brenda S. Winkler has disciplined any district employees for this breach of confidentiality.

Mortarboard Tip:
Zero Intelligence

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