FBI Seizes 20 Boxes Of Documents Related To Los Angeles School District's $1.3 Billion iPad Program

from the $1.3-billion-is-a-motive-with-a-universal-adapter dept

The FBI is suddenly very interested in the Los Angeles School District's $1.3 billion iPad purchase. Earlier this fall, the LASD board voted to lower retention periods on email to one year, bringing it conveniently back in line with the district's policy, but more to the point, hopefully ensuring that it wouldn't be embarrassed again by emails older than 365 days.
The decision comes less than three weeks after KPCC published two-year-old internal emails that raised questions about whether Superintendent John Deasy's meetings and discussions with Apple and textbook publisher Pearson influenced the school district's historic $500 million technology contract.
What's detailed in these emails appears to be the impetus for the following:
L.A. school district officials turned over 20 boxes of documents Monday in response to a federal grand jury subpoena for documents related to its troubled iPad project, officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon.

The subpoena asked for documents related to the bidding process as well as to the winning bidders in the $1.3-billion effort to provide a computer to every student, teacher and campus administrator.

The contract, approved in June 2013, was with Apple to supply iPads; Pearson provided the curriculum as a subcontractor.
LASD's attempt to put some sort of device in every one of its students' hands has failed miserably. Students cracked the school's proprietary lockdown measures within days of receiving them, loading up the tablets with unapproved software and photos, all the while browsing a now-uncensored web.

The district's tech distribution plan has now ground to a halt. The allegedly crooked superintendent behind the iPad/Pearson partnership has since resigned and only 91,000 of the 650,000 iPads destined for students and teachers have actually been purchased. The district is now giving schools the option of picking up cheaper Chromebooks, which would have been a great idea if only the district hadn't previously spent money purchasing laptops that were pricier than the $768 iPads (which also come bundled with $200 worth of Pearson software -- software found to be mostly useless by evaluators, who noted that only one classroom in the 245 surveyed was actually using it for daily work).

The new superintendent (who inherited former superintendent John Deasy's possibly illegal mess), Ramon Cortines, states that the iPad program is now off the table completely.
The morning after the FBI seized the documents, Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said he was shelving the contract.

Cortines said his decision was not based on the surprise visit by FBI agents to district headquarters.
Yes, well, maybe not "based" entirely on that, but the FBI's removal of 20 file boxes of documents related to the iPad purchases certainly must have played a small part. Now, we'll have to see what the FBI uncovers as a previous investigation by the LA County district attorney's office found no evidence of wrongdoing -- or at least, nothing wrong enough to result in criminal charges.

While the intention of the tech rollout was good (put devices in the hands of students who couldn't otherwise afford them), everything else about it was wrong, not the least of which was the former superintendent's cozy relationship with the two primary vendors. Nearly useless software tethered to locked down devices ensured that the only beneficiaries of this project were those selling hardware and software. This was $1.3 billion spent with little more to show for it than an open FBI investigation -- hardly the sort of results anyone could call "encouraging."
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Filed Under: fbi, ipads, john deasy, lasd, los angeles school disstrict
Companies: apple, pearson


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  1. icon
    ottermaton (profile), 4 Dec 2014 @ 6:16am

    Re: Re: Doing it right

    Open-source software is great, but its not locked down.

    I'd hate to be the Principal dealing with the angry mother who storms into his office "I caught little Johnny beating the bologna watching goatse on this school provided laptop, I want compensated for emotional distress!"


    You're missing the point.

    First off, Open Source software can be just as "locked down" as any proprietary software if what you're talking about is blocking access to certain sites/services, which you most definitely seem to be. In fact, OSS could be even more locked down (in this regard) because you could take the source code and change it to enable greater blocking/filtering.

    What's actually going on is this school (Penn Manor) has trusted their students enough to give them full control over their laptops. There's an agreement among school-students-parents barring certain behaviors, and if they break that it's on them. No lawsuit possible.

    Secondly, trying to block/filter is a game of whack-a-mole and a total waste of time/money.

    The Appeal to Tradition Fallacy you're selling may be comforting to some, but that doesn't change the fact that it's totally wrong.

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