Idiotic School Administrators…

want to punish students for the administrations lack of foresight and thinking.

KUTZTOWN, Pa. (AP) — They’re being called the Kutztown 13 — a group of high schoolers charged with felonies for bypassing security with school-issued laptops, downloading forbidden Internet goodies and using monitoring software to spy on district administrators.

The students, their families and outraged supporters say authorities are overreacting, punishing the kids not for any heinous behavior — no malicious acts are alleged — but rather because they outsmarted the district’s technology workers.

The Kutztown Area School District begs to differ. It says it reported the students to police only after detentions, suspensions and other punishments failed to deter them from breaking school rules governing computer usage.

Looks pretty bad. The school district tried to punish these students on their own using school punishments, but that didn’t work. But is that the full story? Not quite.

The trouble began last fall after the district issued some 600 Apple iBook laptops to every student at the high school about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The computers were loaded with a filtering program that limited Internet access. They also had software that let administrators see what students were viewing on their screens.

But those barriers proved easily surmountable: The administrative password that allowed students to reconfigure computers and obtain unrestricted Internet access was easy to obtain. A shortened version of the school’s street address, the password was taped to the backs of the computers.

The password got passed around and students began downloading such forbidden programs as the popular iChat instant-messaging tool.–emphasis added

Personally, I think the school administrators should be charged with a crime for being so blazingly stupid as to leave the password taped to the backs of the computers. Hello, McFly…Think! Are the school administrators so stupid that they were worried they’d forget the password if it wasn’t taped to the back of the laptops?

The first question that comes to mind is: why didn’t the school district take back the laptops until they were sure that such stupid loopholes in their security were addressed.

And the kids have their own website (put up and maintained by an uncle of one of the kids). One interesting tidbit is this,

At a school board meeting ~ a year ago, opponents of the high school̢۪s Computer Initiative predicted that the administration would not be able to control the student̢۪s access to inappropriate internet sites. The administration promised that they had the technology and would be competent and capable of protecting the students from these dangers. The administration confidently moved the program forward.

And then tapped the passwords the kids needed to get around the security measures to the back of the laptops. Brilliant. I know, I know, just because you leave your door wide open isn’t an invitation to steal your television set. But it is really stupid to leave the door wide open. How much sympathy do you have for a person who has had their credit card used illegal by another when that person didn’t just lose the credit card, but started handing out copies of it to random strangers?

Unfortunately our program did not allow for the temporary suspension of computer privileges. Some kids who had trouble resisting temptation tried to turn in their laptops and were forced by the administration to take them back. And the administration still seems to prefer the option of felony charges, and intimidation over the simple withdrawal of computer privileges.

I tell you the level of stupidity here on the part of the school administration is amazing. They basically locked themselves into a situation they couldn’t get out of, and to solve this mistake they are going to charge students who have not done anything other than veiw some porn (news flash: every teen has seen porn) and download some games and programs like iChat.

And it looks like the school administration decided to keep the parents out of the loop,

Most of the parents were shocked and outraged that the administration had never contacted or consulted with them about the need to modify their kids behavior.

Further, there is also the question of where the children apprised of their rights when being questioned by the administration and the police,

Dozens of children were brought to the office for questioning. Some were threatened with felony charges if they did not tell all. At no time were they informed that their answers might be used against them in a court of law.

Now all the facts are not known, but it seems to me that it is very likely that the school administration shoulders some of the responsibility here. From what I have read, it seems like the parents did not understand the severity of the problem here. If this is true, this is a failure on the part of the school administration. Second, it is patently obvious that the program was not at all ready for implementation from a security stand point. In this regard the school administration is fully responsible. I also question the types of punishments that were used. Suspensions would require parental notification, and yet many of the comments I’ve seen indicate that the parents were unaware of the seriousness of this problem. It is plainly obvious that these kids broke the rules and should be punished. But at the same time the school administration went forward with a program it was totally incapable of administering, and may have handled the punishments inappropriately. Not only should the students be punished, but people in the administration need to be fired, IMO. I know if I were to violate computer security like these administrators did I’d most likely get fired.

FILED UNDER: Education, Policing, Science & Technology, , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. bryan says:

    iChat is preloaded on all apple ibooks. I wonder if they removed the program before giving it to the students?

  2. Annonymous says:

    The password was never taped to any computers. What they are talking about is a sticker on the bottom of every laptop that says:
    Kutztown Area High School
    50 Trexler Ave.
    Kutztown PA, 19530
    (610) 683-7346
    All the parents knew of the severity and when asked why they claim not to, evan though they signed the detention/suspension slips with an explanation of what was going on, their reply was that they didn’t read it, just signed it. So who’s fault is it that they were unaware of what was going on?

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    All the parents knew of the severity and when asked why they claim not to, evan though they signed the detention/suspension slips with an explanation of what was going on, their reply was that they didn’t read it, just signed it.

    Hmmm…an anonymous source with no links or anything to back up the claims. Not exactly the most reliable source.

  4. Herb says:

    I think that upon conducting a through check of most school administrations, you will find that administrators are a politically correct, know it all, self centered and dictatorial group of college prepared morons and idiots who CYA at every turn and will play with local school budgets to enhance their position in the district they govern. They are usually backed up by a similar group of local school board members that have about as much knowledge about what is going on as bunch of rubber stamp idiots

  5. Sgt Fluffy says:

    They should have taped the password underneath the keyboard securely like the rest of us do.

  6. richard says:

    The 13 kids charged are alleging that the number of students who typed in the password is actually muuuuuuch higher. Not everyone who jimmied the computers is facing charges. They’re also saying that the administrators freely gave the password to a group of 20 students who assisted in the program’s implementation, and those 20 were never monitored as to their computer activities. They got to do whatever they wanted. And, supposedly, some of those 20 gave the password to their friends. The district is trying to give those 13 kids the shaft.