Laptop-rich programs worry about theft

Two high-tech schools in Philadelphia warn students not to defend laptops from theives, equip machine with software that phones home

As schools are ratcheting up funding programs that put a laptop on every lap, there are increasing concerns over how to keep the small computers from being stolen, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia school districts are getting ready to distribute more than 10,000 laptops to about half its sixth and ninth graders. The cost for one laptop is $1,080. The total cost of providing the computers is $300,000, and that has district officials worried.

"When you consider the popularity of computers, they're relatively high value and relatively small size. Of all the assets the district owns, it's an easy target," said Pat Renzulli, the district's senior vice president of technology. "We are concerned as we roll out this program. Student safety is our paramount concern. Secondarily is the safety of our equipment."

The newly opened High School of the Future - a partnership with Microsoft - and the new Science Leadership Academy - a high school partnership with the Franklin Institute - have given students laptops will the warning that they should hand over the laptops if they are confronted by a robber.

Nationally, there have been few reports of robberies or student injuries with school laptops. And the Philadelphia school district has bought software that traces any stolen or missing laptops. The laptops are programmed to "phone home" daily and can be located with help from the local police department.

It's phoning home saying, 'Hi, I'm here at this IP [Internet provider] address,' said Joseph Huttlin, director of the district's Educational Technology Group.