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Pennsylvania Confuses High School Student High Jinks With Felonies

from the major-overreaction dept

High school authority figures notoriously overreact to students’ use of new technology, typically out of fear that the overuse of these newfangled devices will have a harmful effect on young minds. In another example of how this misguided fear has gone too far, a Pennsylvania high school turned over 13 students to local police, and now the kids are facing felony charges for computer trespass. Apparently, the students got ahold of an ill-kept administrator password, reconfigured their school-issued laptops, and downloaded music and “inappropriate” images. Sneaky, perhaps even rule-breaking, but felonious? It’s not like these students did anything overtly bad, like changing their grades or committing an actual crime. Even the superintendent admits that they didn’t compromise the school’s server or anyone’s private information. You’d think just giving them detention, revoking their laptop privileges, or grounding them would be sufficient, but maybe those acts have been outlawed in this town too. Rather than fairly punishing students, this case merely wastes resources that could be spent on real problems and, more unfortunately, discourages intellectual curiosity.

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Comments on “Pennsylvania Confuses High School Student High Jinks With Felonies”

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Dan Semaya says:

I did it

I work for an education technology company and I have seen countless incidents where students have *discovered* the administrator password for computers and abused the machines. Most of what they did would involve playing on the internet and downloading music/movies/games/etc.

99% of the time the students learn the password because teachers and school administrators do not understand the importance of passwords and share them in front of the students (or sometimes with students) and don’t recognize the consequences of their actions.

I certainly think that punishing kids for this is wrong. Back when I was in school I knew the fortress password and used it on all the Windows 95 PCs in school. I never did anything malicious, and was very good at covering my tracks. I usually would use it to add my own links to the IE toolbar (and put them off to the right so that they were only accessible via the “>” menu) and I would use it to make the computers actually useful instead of the insanely limited machines that they were. If it weren’t for my curiosity at this age I certainly wouldn’t be involved in educational technology today, where I work to improve the use of technology in public schools.

Michael Vilain says:

What will the judge say when this case shows up on

I’d be interested to know if it ever does or if the DA looks at it and decides to go after some drug dealers (aka terrorist financiers) instead.

I’d love to see the school district pick up the tab for bringing this case to court rather than the families of the students themselves.

If you did It pay the penalty says:

Re: Up-to-date classroom management

Stop making excuses for misbehaving misfits. This is why kids are now taking guns to school, because adults spend too much time trying to down play or justify the bad conduct of todays youth. The parents don’t discpline their kids, the schools are not allowed to do anything, and most adults dare not even speak to these arrogant kids. Need to go back to the days when parents, teachers, and authority figures could keep the bad elements out of the class rooms. That includes these young adults.

joh6nn says:

Re: Re: Up-to-date classroom management

you can’t have it both ways: are they kids misbehaving, or are they young adults committing a felony? those are two distinct groups, and they are punished separately, in different ways. generally speaking, kids misbehaving aren’t prosecuted, and generally, breaking school imposed rules isn’t considered a felony: it’s a problem internal to the school, and therefore solved internally.
further, where and when were you going to school that the teachers were keeping the “bad elements” out of the classroom? there have always been class clowns and trouble makers in every time and place, and the assertion that there was some time and place when everyone was either perfectly behaved or there was at least some perfect filter to keep the “bad ‘uns” out is as ludicrous as prosecuting students who have only committed crimes by the farthest stretch of the imagination.
finally, you’ve made statements that contradict the main thrust of your argument: if most adults don’t dare speak to kids, isn’t that a shortcoming of the adults, not the kids? and how can you say that the schools aren’t allowed to do anything, when the very point of this post, a school prosecuting federally, is a school taking something too far?
if i want to listen to someone talking about how “kids these days ain’t got no respect”, i’ll put in a rodney dangerfield tape. until then, see if you can’t make actually constructive comments, instead of just spouting whiney cliches

Sunny D says:

If it was like this 8-10yrs ago...

when I was in highschool, I’d probably just be getting out of jail right now.
Myself, like I’m sure one or two students in every programming class before, and after me, decided to write a fake novell netware login using qbasic (keeping in mind this was back in the mid-90s), in order to gather login/password information. Anyways, me and a few friends wrote it, and executed it on several classmates PCs when they weren’t looking, and when they’d return from wherever, they would see the standard novell login screen, and hopefully think they got booted out, and proceed to log back in as usual. The program would simply write their logins/passwords to a publicly accessible file share, then reboot their PC, and voila we had their info. They didn’t really suspect anything, and once the machine came back up, they would continue about their business.
This was more of a joke/exercise to get away from the standard “okay class, make your computer say hello world”, and in the end our teacher thought it was pretty clever, and instead of calling the cops, and throwing us in jail, we got a pat on the back for a job well done.

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