A burst of sanity in the schools - chatting students won't go to jail

A burst of sanity in the schools - chatting students won't go to jail

Summary: Kids accused of actually using school-provided computers avoid felony charges, get community service. But is this good education policy to threaten experimentation with jail time?

TOPICS: Hardware

A school district in Kutztown, Pa., outside of Allentown, had distributed 600 Apple iBooks to students to use for school work. Apparently, the terms of the loan included strict prohibitions against using the computers for anything but school work, including downloading programs or using them for email. Thirteen kids insisted on digging into the computers, running iChat (verboten) and even disabling remote monitoring, which was intended to let administrators monitor student activity, and using it to check up on administrators instead.

Last week the story broke into national news when administrators turned this behavior into a criminal affair, filing felony charges of computer trespass and computer theft. Now a deal has been reached, AP reports, where the kids would apologize, do community service, and be on a few months probation.

At least one student has refused the deal, saying he didn't do anything wrong; another who already had a rap sheet has not been offered the deal.

That one kid is (at least morally) right. While it's not nice to spy on your administrators and break whatever agreement they signed, the proper role of education is to encourage experimentation and deep understanding. Schools should be making kids into curious power users, not simpleton users who just follow the instructions. A computer may be an excellent appliance for learning (or it might just be so-so) but it is also something to learn about and kids should be supported not prosecuted for finding out just what it can do - even if that includes chatting and disabling spying eyes.   


Topic: Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Troglodytes at the Gates

    Unfortunately, these knuckle-dragging school administrators have missed the point that a PC is now fundamentally a commuications device, not a computational one. And the last time I checked, communications input and output were at least 2 of the "3Rs": readin' and writin'. Now let's consider a school district that thinks that putting a FELONY conviction on the records of their students for something like this is a reasonable response. Twits.
  • Yeah right....

    That would be a great lesson... "Go ahead, break the rules...it's OK...we won't punish you."

    I don't care why they did it...they broke the rules and *should* be punished. That's what America needs more of these days...not the whimpy "I can't spank my child...it'll scar his mind!" type mentality.

    If they had wanted to learn something, they could have gone to the teachers or principal and gotten permission to do so...but they didn't...they just wanted to break the rules and look cool and feel important. Someone should have spanked their hands a loooong time before they learned how to type. If more people did likewise, we might not have as much law breaking, criminal hacking and other crimes that cost millions for those tax payers and responsible people who have to come behind and clean up their messes.

    Personally, I think they ought to throw the book at them.
    • Your punishment

      ...for being such a freak is the Punishment of 10,000 Stupid Laws: you will receive a ticket every time you go even one MPH over the speed limit, or jaywalk, or litter, spit in public or fudge on your taxes.

      You will receive this punishment until you learn that when we have hundreds and thousands of stupid laws, it teaches everyone to disrespect them. The solution is not more laws but fewer -- only a few key ones, in fact. THOSE few should, indeed, be strictly enforced. But most of the rules in this case should never have been put forward, much less enforced.

      The administrators in this case tried to put a million controls on everything, and it follows as the night the day that those rules will be ignored.
    • long hairs in control

      We went through all sorts of changes in the
      late 50's and though the 70's, but what truely
      blows me away is the fact that the group who
      fought tooth and nail against "the establishment"
      is now in control and want to put in all the
      rules they took out and more besides.
      I totally agree that if you pass so many rules
      you create a society that will not follow any as
      most are stupid, mean, petty, or self serving
  • Morally right?

    Umm...in what way would what they did be "morally" right? It goes against 1) any moral system, 2)any mores of the society and 3) the common good -- to agree to usage and then deliberately renege on your agreement just because you can figure out how to do it. Mores are society's customs for its common good, not do whatever just because you want to.
  • Gone Too Liberal on "Kids Rights"

    The article's response "Schools should be making kids into curious power users, not simpleton users who just follow the instructions" is a bit too much for me. Kids also need to be taught and expected to follow instructions and honor and obey what they agreed to in order to get the "priviledge" to have/use the computers.

    No one is free to do what they want in life, especially if it's with someone else's property and in violation of what they agreed in order to get to use the computers and system.

    How and when will kids learn to be responsible if allowed to think they can just be "curious power users, not simpleton users who just follow the instructions"?
  • I'd rather be ignorant, than an idiot

    At least ignorance can be cured.

    First of all, if the school district didn't want the kids hacking the systems, they'd have done a better job of securing them. The district is SUPPOSED to be run by knowledgeable adults. They didn't, and the implication is they wanted to encourage out of the box thinkers. A school is SUPPOSED to be a place of learning. And learning takes all forms. It is human nature to explore boundaries. What actually happened is that the students learned two lessons: First, that the adults in charge are mostly idiots. Second, don't get caught.
    And even if they were charged and convicted of a felony in this case; it would have NO affect in changing their behavior as they'll never understand the consequences until much later in their lives. Which would have made this a pure punishment; not a disciplinary, behavior-modification problem.
    I recall a story by David Webber, one of the Honor Harrington series, in which the military academy deliberately leaves a back door open to certain 'restricted' subject areas in their network to see which students 'avail' themselves to find out more information about the subject areas. Those students are then identified and given advanced training - they are the ones pushing the boundaries of knowledge and ability, not the ones blindly following orders.
  • Are we teaching morals??

    I disagree with your opinion. The inquiring minds can be stimulated in the right settings. We should teach our youth to keep their commitments. Otherwise, our self-indulgent society continues to degrade itself. Honor and integrity should be balanced with discovery and learning. Discovery and learning should not be given priority over honor and integrity........Al
  • Absurd

    Now, don't get me wrong, I believe these bright young minds must be taught to respect the property of their school, but isn't rather absurd to bring the law into all of this? Something like this should be kept within the school. Lock them up in the school basement for a week for all I care, but don't try filing criminal charges.

    It makes the school seem like it's incapable of disciplining its students properly.