High School Responds To Student's Prank By Asking Local Law Enforcement To Step In And Investigate

from the now-who's-acting-like-a-child? dept

I see we're still handling things stupidly when it comes to school disciplinary problems. For years now, many schools have been steadily abdicating their responsibilities, allowing in-school law enforcement (commonly called "School Resource Officers") to hand out discipline that school administrators used to handle themselves.

This hasn't worked out well for students. It has turned standard discipline problems into police matters and given students a head start on having their futures ruined for juvenile (in all senses of the word) mistakes.

Recently, a high school in Glastonbury, Connecticut was horrified to find it had been pranked. The Hartford Courant's first pass at the breaking news opened with this:

An inappropriate quote has halted distribution of Glastonbury High School’s 2021 yearbooks and police have been called to investigate, the principal confirmed Monday.

How does an "inappropriate quote" become the subject of a police investigation? The rest of the reporting didn't explain. Neither did school administrators. But they did hint it had something to do with bullying.

A student using a false name submitted the quote printed in the yearbook, which was being distributed, Principal Nancy Bean wrote to students and parents on Friday.

Bean would not describe the quote, but she wrote, “We are saddened and distressed by what happened. Acts of bias, bullying and cruelty are not acceptable at our school. We are committed to ensuring all Glastonbury High School students feel safe and supported.”

While it may have been possible some sort of stalking or harassment was taking place that might have merited a law enforcement response, the principal's explanation that the quote had been "submitted" by a student using a fake name suggested nothing more than a bored student taking the high school for a ride.

Later reporting filled in more details. But it still didn't explain why the school felt compelled to involve the police. Nor did it explain why the police felt compelled to remain involved.

A quote by Adolf Hitler inserted into Glastonbury High School’s 2021 yearbooks has halted distribution of the yearbook and police have been called to investigate.

A student using a false name submitted the quote printed in the yearbook, which was being distributed, Principal Nancy Bean wrote to students and parents on Friday. The quote under a student’s photo was attributed to George Floyd, the Black man killed by police one year ago in Minnesota, a photo of the yearbook entry sent to The Courant Monday afternoon showed.

That it involved George Floyd's name and Adolph Hitler's words still doesn't make it a crime. And, again, the principal said a student "submitted" the quote. Those vetting the yearbook before publication failed to catch it. A prank isn't a crime, no matter how terrible it made administrators feel once they realized they'd been tricked into publishing (and distributing) a Hitler quote.

Since the original reporting, a few more details have come to light. And there's still nothing that suggests a criminal act has occurred. It only suggests the school needs better editors and/or a more tightly-controlled submission system.

In an email to the school community, Glastonbury High School’s principal and the district’s superintendent said the quote — which appeared under a student’s photo — was submitted by a different student using a false name. They said they also uncovered an offensive quote glorifying war and an entry, which referenced the “Boston Bomber.” The district’s priority is supporting the students, who were victimized by this act.

Fast forward to a couple of days past the point of the original reporting and a new narrative is being developed, possibly to justify the involvement of law enforcement.

A letter released by the Glastonbury school superintendent said the student gained access to a computer system and submitted a quote from Adolf Hitler, but falsely attributed the message to George Floyd.

"Gained access." That's incredibly vague. If a student had hacked a secure system or accessed administrative systems they had no authority to access, it might be a crime. But only "might." And only if prosecutors are willing to abuse badly-written laws to convert a prank into criminal charges.

The Glastonbury Police were a little more direct in the statement given to Newsweek:

"Although we find the quote to be disturbing, our criminal investigation is not focused on the content of the quote itself, but instead we are focused on investigating the unauthorized access of a computer system through which students submitted their quotes to be published in the yearbook."

This still doesn't explain anything. The official statement from the school superintendent makes no mention of unauthorized access. It also notes the student has already been punished by the school for this prank. All the letter says is the student used a fake name to submit fake quotes. That's not illegal, no matter how embarrassed school officials feel. And this never would have been the end result if schools hadn't become increasingly comfortable outsourcing their disciplinary problems.

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Filed Under: cfaa, connecticut, glastonbury, hacking, kids, police, pranks, school resource officers, schools, students, unauthorized access


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  1. identicon
    Lily May, 15 Jun 2021 @ 4:47am

    If they didn't want "acts of bias, bullying and cruelty" in their school, they should think twice before inviting cops there.


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