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Kutztown Students get Felony Charges 825

gone6713 writes "The 13 students from Pennsylvania who were accused of hacking the iBooks provided to them by the school (Slashdot had a previous story on them back in June) have offically been charged. It seems that the admin passwords were taped to the back of the iBooks!"
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Kutztown Students get Felony Charges

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  • Human error (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigwavejas ( 678602 ) * on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:28AM (#13361808) Journal
    "It seems that the admin passwords were taped to the back of the iBooks!"

    You know, I'm really not surprised to hear this. Despite all the precautions companies/ institutions take, it's typically human negligence or social engineering that leads to many compromises. While doing a spot check of security at work, I was surprised to find many employees had taped their passwords to the bottom of their keyboard or mouse.

    Rule#1 make sure your users (employees, admins, etc) understand the importance of confidentiality.

  • Taped? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AdamReyher ( 862525 ) <adam@pylonhosting.PERIODcom minus punct> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:33AM (#13361829) Homepage
    While the students should face some kind of consequences, in my opinion, the sheer stupidity puts this at the fault of those "victims" rather than the students.
  • Re:Human error (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TykeClone ( 668449 ) * <> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:34AM (#13361832) Homepage Journal
    Rule #2 - have a sane password policy

    Forcing people to have different passwords for different systems that change on different timetables is just asking for them to break Rule #1.

  • retardville (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rocketman768 ( 838734 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:34AM (#13361836) Homepage
    See? This label of "hacker" to students who can read the back of a book is what is going to get them convicted of something. This is just all-around completely absurd. It's like if I were to always leave my keys in the ignition of my car: plain stupid.
  • by Satorian ( 902590 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:36AM (#13361850) Homepage
    Yup, just go ahead and charge them for curiousity and doing something perfectly natural.

    Make sure to slap the hungry monkey's wrist that sees a stick next to an ant hill. Does wonders for intellectual development on a macro- and microscale.

  • Re:Taped? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daniil ( 775990 ) <> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:38AM (#13361860) Journal
    No, it does not. The students did it all of their own free will. Noone forced them to install and uninstall software, let alone hack these computers (and they did apparently hack them).
  • Hack? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Squidly ( 720087 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:38AM (#13361861)
    Really, can't we get the media to stop using the work Hack in this way? Finding a password taped onto a notebook isn't hacking.

    Sure, they may have used the computers in way which they shouldn't but, they didn't have to hack them.

    I know, I know... the average Joe couldn't tell the difference between anything remotely technical but the media shouldn't be encourage it.

    I think I'll go let Windows Hack into my neighbor's unsecured wireless access point.
  • Re:Taped? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:38AM (#13361862)
    yes, but the administrators of the school must save face. I don't think the kids are guilty of anything other than making the teachers and administrators look like fools. I blame lax security methods, but I think the worst crime committed by the involved school officials is underestimating the intelligence of the kids. Kids are just as smart, if not smarter, than we are; they just lack experience. Rather than screwing up the kids future, I'd fire the supervisor of the IT department. He/She is ultimately responsible for the security methods employed, and it will send shockwaves through the IT department so that this kind of shit won't happen again.
  • Yes and no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davmoo ( 63521 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:40AM (#13361871)
    First, I will agree that felony charges here is rather extreme, and someone isn't thinking. A few days of detention (for both the students and the security administrator) would be more appropriate.

    But the fact that the passwords were on the back of the iBooks does not mean everyone was free to use them at will.

    I can tape the key to my house on to the front door of my house, and while that is extreme stupidity on my part, that does not give you permission to unlock the door and come inside.
  • by Cerdic ( 904049 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:40AM (#13361873)
    From the article:

    Now that's not the only thing that the kids are accused of doing, they also turned off the monitoring software (Apple Remote Desktop?) and even used it to monitor the admins. In addition, they're accused of using hacking tools to find the new admin password when it was changed from the password that was taped on the back of the machines.

    Also, if you click on the little update link at the bottom of the story, you'll see that the kids were also found to be downloading pornography. Might sound innocent to some of you, but adults / the school can get in trouble for "allowing" them access to X-rated material.

    Now, a third degree felony sounds harsh, but they still need some punishment. If they had stopped at using the password taped onto the back of the computers I'd feel sorry for them, but they were spying on admins and using other means to get the password once it was changed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:41AM (#13361879)
    ...that read:

    "Acceptance of this laptop may expose your child to FELONY charges"

    Would any of the parents allowed their child to have one?
  • by UpLateDrinkingCoffee ( 605179 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:41AM (#13361881)
    in our increasingly vengence based culture. Some principal or admin got his feathers ruffled that student's would actually use the passwords taped to their computers and is now on a rampage to bring them into submission or destroy their lives. I'm surprised they haven't been labeled terrorists by now. This goes way beyond this school district... witness the proliferation of "no tolerance" policies. Everyone makes mistakes, especially teens... we as a society should be focused on correcting mistakes and giving people the chance to learn from them. It's only those who refuse to recognze they made a mistake or continually fail to learn from them that need to be dragged in front of the courts.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:42AM (#13361887) Homepage
    And "looking at what people give you" stop ?

    I'd assume they'd WANT me to know the admin password if it was taped to the back of the laptop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:45AM (#13361910)
    Kids are kids, and are of course going to be curious and try to stuff they know they shouldn't be doing. An admin password taped to the underside of the computer would be tempting for a rational, intelligent adult to use, much less a school-age kid!

    Hell, if the admins are taping obvious admin passwords to student computers, how lax is the security on the rest of the school's network, where data like student names, addresses and grades are kept? I think the school district/board/admins/whoever are going after these kids with such zeal to keep the spotlight off what would be, in any other industry, criminally negligent network administration and security.

    I think we should all take a moment to be thankful the network admins at that school district aren't working anywhere where their incompetence would cause serious trouble, like a financial institution.
  • Re:Yes and no (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:49AM (#13361929)
    I can tape the key to my house on to the front door of my house, and while that is extreme stupidity on my part, that does not give you permission to unlock the door and come inside.
    Hmm. I think a more appropriate analogy in this case would be if you're renting a house, and the landlord says "Don't ever use the cupboard under the stairs. I've locked it so you won't be tempted to have a look at all the interesting things inside. Here, I'll give you the key for safe keeping".
  • by stevew ( 4845 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:51AM (#13361946) Journal
    yep - the other little detail folks are not mentioning here is that the kids used some sort of rootkit equivalent to find the password AFTER it had been changed.

    Doesn't that qualify for breaking and entering?????

    These kids aren't angels...and whoops - there was consequences for their illegal actions..oh and to make sure everyone here gets that. These kids committed a crime. They KNOWNINGLY violated the machines by using the admin password they weren't suppose to have. Look - if I leave my house unlocked, does that make it any more wrong for someone to enter and start taking my things?

    The other issue is that these are still kids, and if they're under 18.... it isn't on their permanent record. If you guys are constantly going to make excuses though about oh- it wasn't that bad, then the rest of the rules of society might as well fly out the window as well.

  • by keraneuology ( 760918 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:53AM (#13361958) Journal
    If not a single member of the board of education loses the next election over this then I will chalk this up to this being the will of the people and forget about it.

    Whoever taped those passwords to the back of the computers needs to be fired. Whoever gave that person a job needs to be fired. Whoever has the authority to demand that the people above must be fired immediately but hasn't needs to be fired.

    But this isn't happening. Rather than start demanding even a fleeting glimpse of intelligence within the public schools the parents simply get together and whine that the people they voted for have their heads so far up their rectum that you can't distinguish a fart from a whistle don't engage in sphincter-yoga.

    Yes, there is the possibility that these parents didn't vote this particular schoolboard (and mayor , who allowed this particular police chief and DA to make such stupid decisions), but I'll hedge my bets and say that either they voted for them or didn't vote at all.

    Are they demanding the resignation of the board? No.

    Are they demanding the resignation of the DA? No.

    Are they even promising to vote for somebody else in the next election? No.

    So if they don't care enough to actually DO something about the situation, why should anybody else?

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:55AM (#13361975) Homepage
    It was one thing to essentially commandeer borrowed government property. (It doesn't matter if they negligently made the key available for use or not.) They also went about expanding their control first by blocking the admin's ability to monitor then by breaking into the admin account again... it was not taped to the computer the second time.

    Afterward, they went on to monitoring the admin.

    This is their defiance of authority and that's the message here.

    On one hand, I think it's "harsh" what is being done to the kids -- I really do. But there's a larger picture here that should be acknowledged.

    How many times have you been completely and utterly insulted by children who know there's nothing you can do about it. That is, in essence, what has happened here. When it was realized that the kids were breakign rules, they were essentially given the chance to straighten up when they were discovered and their admin passwords changed. The kids responded by being even mroe defiant and even aggressive about it.

    We have a cultural mess on our hands. I'm just sick enough of defiant children to endorse the reaction we are seeing here. You can't spank children any more. Somehow it became a crime. You can't even talk "mean" to them -- it's somehow psychological abuse as well. As a culture, we cannot control the children. And it's clear that most parents will not regulate their offspring as well... (at least without fear of criminal problems much of the time)

    I have two sons of my own and at the moment, my biggest problem is getting them to tell the truth. I haven't seen evidence of anything worse... not yet anyway. Respect for authority is a critical lesson in life that needs to be learned. If we have to make 13 examples of these kids, then so be it. It could help in changing the path for millions of other kids out there... kids that will one day grow up and lead this world. And if you think I'm over-reacting myself, look around you at the many "adults" out there who are early evidence of the things to come... people who never actually grew up and took responsibility for themselves. Examples are not hard to find.

    Respect, in general, should be restored as a key value in our culture and at the core of respect is fear of what might happen if you don't.
  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:57AM (#13361984)
    You have the implicit right not to have your travel patterns monitored when you rent a car, but a school has the right to watch what students do with PC's ???.

    Then again it really shouldnt surprise me that incompetent people in the I.T. field wind up blaming everyone around them for their faults. In this case it seems they managed to get a sympathetic ear out of their local PD. Its sad that, you can have people harbor a child molestor and not be charged with so much as obstruction of justice, but here you have children being charged with unauthorized use of devices placed in their possesion.

    IANAL but the fact that the schools handed the PC's to the students, said use them to do their work will probably knock down any charges concerning them. It will be really hard to prove unauthorized access when they were handed the quipment and given access to the network. Taping the password the back of the machine should also throw out any claims that the systems were meant to be secure.

    This case shows what happens when legislators make law without understanding what they are trying to legislate or considering the consequences. If this application of the law is held valid it will allow any corporation, organization or group to take revenge on any employee or member that uses its computers and is disliked. To do so, all that would have to be done is change an employee manual or circulate a policy memo in a way that it would either not be read or misunderstood, and then call the police when someone keeps on doing what they had been doing.

  • Re:honesty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blondie-Wan ( 559212 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:02PM (#13362019) Homepage
    Right, so let's charge them with felonies! Yeah, that's sensible.

    Ok, so punish them, sure, but felonies? Do you also favor beheading as punishment for jaywalkers? Their punishment is so ridiculously disproportionate to the "crime" it's galling.

  • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:07PM (#13362044) Homepage
    "They were punished multiple times and they still continued to do it."

    So a rational adult would simply take the laptop away from them. Either play by the rules or take it away.

    To me, this is the equivalent of sending your kid to reform school because he talked back one too many times. Its overreaction and really, its an admission of failure by the school authorities.

    Everybody in Kutztown should be ashamed of themselves.
  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:08PM (#13362046)
    These kids aren't angels...and whoops - there was consequences for their illegal actions..oh and to make sure everyone here gets that. These kids committed a crime.

    You're right. Hardened felons, all of them. Criminals. Malcontents. Society can't possbily function with these kinds of challenges to authority... much less the status quo. Fly out the window, indeed! Thankfully, this kind of spirit has been identified early and, we can only hope, properly quashed. The last thing we need is any of the kind of insanity that lead to the shennanigans in Silicon Valley.
  • Re:Taped? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:11PM (#13362056)
    If we're playing with analogies here, let's at least use accurate ones:

    You go to downtown Miami at 2 a.m. in your brand new BMW. You brought your 18-year-old son with you, and since you're going into a bar to have a few drinks, you give your son the keys.

    You tell him he can drive around, but not to go more than 5 blocks away from the bar. While you're in the bar, he drives 8 blocks away to a convenience store to buy some soda.

    When he gets back, you have him arrested and charged with a felony.

  • Re:Taped? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by canadian_right ( 410687 ) <> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:18PM (#13362106) Homepage
    These are kids.

    In civilised countries kids who use a password TAPED to the computer have their computer privleges revoked, a lecture, and a meeting with their parents and the administration. They are NOT turned over to the police. In civilised countries the authorities know that children, even older teenagers, sometimes do stupid things and need more help and guidance than adults. When children screw up treating them as criminials just makes it more likely that they will become criminials.

    Many countries have (even some states in the USA) have programs for first time offenders that diverts them from the normal criminal law courts. The diversion usually involves an apology, restitution, and community work. 90% of first time offenders that are diverted this way never commit another crime.

    USA highschools, as reported in the media, are the most screwed up institutions on the planet. Scholastic achievment is punished, sports achievement is lauded, minor incidents are harshly punished. It is like some twisted Kaffkaesque prision.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:24PM (#13362135)
    I completely agree with you that our culture has an issue with young people growing up irresponsible and disrespectful. I am 18 myself, and I am regularly disgusted and appalled by the behavior of my so-called "peers" and other young people.

    However, I disagree with your assessment of how to respond to the issue. Over and over again you are talking about "controlling" children - about "respecting authority". You bemoan the demise of spanking and complain that you can't "talk mean" to kids.

    Now, I am not a psychologist nor have I studied child rearing - as I said, I'm only 18 myself. But what I would like to suggest, for whatever it is worth, is that respect isn't something that is instilled by control. It's something earned and taught. My parents never tried to control me and my siblings. We were never spanked, punished, or yelled at for things we did "wrong". Rather, they gently explained our error and, if necessary, had us make amends. Our parents raised us with respect for *us* - and helped us learn to respect others as well, by being living examples. I am not saying this approach necessarily works with all children (or all adults - some of y'all need to to think about the example of respect you're setting!). But I was dismayed by your advocacy of what is essentially parental authoritarianism, and I felt that a counter-example might be worth writing.

    I would also dispute your statement that Respect for authority is a critical lesson in life that needs to be learned. Why? I agree with you that respect is an important lesson, but I would argue that respect should simply be for people and for property in general. Why should we respect authority? Teach kids to think for themselves, and educate them in moral principles so that they can make responsible decisions in their own right.

    In closing, your post states:

    Respect, in general, should be restored as a key value in our culture and at the core of respect is fear of what might happen if you don't.

    I cannot say loudly enough how much I disagree with that. Respect isn't about fear at all. It's about doing what is right. It's about holding others in high enough esteem to want to treat them well. Heck, the good old "golden rule" is a simplistic but reasonable enough definition of respect - treat others the way you'd want to be treated, set their rights equal to your own. But fear of retribution? Where is the moral strength in that?

    My 47.5 cents.
  • A reasonable punishment would be to take away the laptops.

    If the kids won't follow the rules then take away the toys. If they are flounting the school rules then use one of the normal school punishments to deal with it. Even after repeat offensives of this type the school and parents should be able to deal with it without resorting to trumped up charges of "hacking". This is the school being vindictive.

  • by Unlikely_Hero ( 900172 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:26PM (#13362149)
    I really do think you have it all wrong here. First of all you can still spank kids depending on the severity of the marks left (in almost all states) Second of all unless you really go off the deep end no one is going to charge you with psychological abuse. The Klutztown 13 aren't "defiant children", that conjures up 8 year olds who are running into the street when they are being told not to. They are teenagers with minds of their own who are probably never given an explanation for anything by the administrators. Think about this, they are rational human beings, so they expect rational reasoning for decisions. Now, if you remember high school, you probably remember that it was almost all bullshit. Or at least if you had gone recently you'd know that it has become entirely bs. You can simply use logic with teenagers, most of them WILL actually follow it give them a damn chance instead of just chalking it up to "defiance". Yes one needs to learn to respect authority, but one also needs to learn how to react when authority is acting like a bunch of special olympics finalists. Granted their actions were wrong, but what does it say about the admins that the children were able to spy on them without their noticing? I'll say this, the school system stores important documents, student information, teacher information, pay information; and unless the kids had proved these admins incompetent NO ONE WOULD HAVE. That's the way these school systems work, all the administrators and higher-ups protect each other in a strange polygarchy. These admins would NEVER have been exposed. Better now that Kutztown High has to learn how to secure the network that assuredly has valuable information on it. If we make examples out of these kids it will most assuredly NOT change the path for millions of other kids out there. Well, at least not the way you're thinking. It will instill in the kid's minds that adults are a group of heavy-handed assenine individuals that respond to questioning of their authroity with legal charges. Also, if you've noticed, most kids don't read or follow the news (a problem in itself), so in reality all one is doing is ruining the lives of 13 children. So in the end let's be logical with our teenagers (I'll admit that children can not often follow logic as well...heh) And not just expect them to blindly follow authority. As for your children, and I'm not making accusations here, how often do you lie? To them? To your spouse? To Authority figures? I'm not accusing you of it, just trying to show the point that children practice what they see. And it's not fair to say "well I don't lie now" but what about when they were growing up? When they were so young, you thought they didn't notice but they did. And of course I'm not saying that leading an exemplary life will lead to exemplary kids, just that it helps. Sir, the final line of your post sums up the reason why I find your line of reasoning unsuitable for anyone. "Respect, in general, should be restored as a key value in our culture and at the core of respect is fear of what might happen if you don't." If I recall correctly the quote went like this "Do not rule with force but with the fear of force" If you rule with fear, enjoy your sheep.
  • by Heian-794 ( 834234 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:28PM (#13362165) Homepage
    But of course that logical, sensible solution doesn't jive with today's vengeful, zero-tolerance, conform-or-face-punishment society.

    This is the equivalent of writing in a library book, except that re-imaging the hard disk on a laptop is actually easier than removing writing from a library book.

    Anyone recall the scene in "Ender's Game" where the kids are virtually encouraged to mess around with their computers, in part so that the school can keep an eye on who's got creativity and daring and who's just a boring by-the-rules follower?

    We won't be raising the kind of smart kids we need to be defeating aliens and saving humanity with the Kutztown school district's attitude.
  • As a parent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) * on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:33PM (#13362187) Homepage
    "How many times have you been completely and utterly insulted by children who know there's nothing you can do about it. "

    I think you're presented a false set of choice here. The choice isn't "accept lack of respect" or "send them to jail"

    Generally, if the administration is in a position where it feels that it can't control the children properly, it's the adults fault. Lets face it; Kutztown isn't exactly "The Blackboard Jungle". These are basically middle class kids who will do either the right thing or wrong thing depending on the situation. Honestly, if you taped the admin password to a laptop you loaned me, I might use it.

    Ineffective leadership and ineffective parenting usually happens when parents/leaders lead by refusing to have small consequences and as a result are forced to have large consequences when things finally become unmanageable.

    This is a perfect case. When it was discovered the kids had compromised the laptops as a result of the password written on top, the administrators might have (a) Punished the children in a small way... perhaps detention...perhaps removal from all extracuricular activities... parents should have been notified (b) the administration should have reimaged the laptops and changed all the passwords. (c) Warn the children that next time, they would have their laptops taken away and that their parents would be liable for the cost of reimaging all the laptops once again. Put all this in writing and have the parents of the children acknowledge this.

    And here's really the key... you have to follow through on every "threat". That is, when it was discovered they'd hacked the laptops again, take their laptops away and send a bill for the cost of reimaging to the parents.

    I'm telling you, these administrators almost sound like they heard the phrase "computer hacker" and it frightened them so much they felt they had to teach the kids a lesson.

  • Re:Human error (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Freexe ( 717562 ) <serrkr@tznvy.pbz> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:36PM (#13362200) Homepage
    Why do people write down the real password?

    I have to change my passwprd once a month and I always write down a password hint

    So if my password was 'omg_this_is_hard_password!' i would write down 'you will never guess this months password, it's hard!' and that would be enough for me to remember

  • by moxley ( 895517 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:36PM (#13362201)
    This just goes to show you - if the public school system in America really wanted to teach kids to learn, they'd place emphasis on having them learn to think critically for themselves, (a very important concept which seems to be sorely lacking today) rather than trying to churn out students who learn by rote and repetition (I.E. they are churning out cogs for our society/the corporate machine). Learning to think critically for yourself is exactly what many, many schools in America strive to prevent and punish at every opportunity. It seems like these kids are being punished severely for "thinking outside of the box" and for exploring other ways to use their machines - For not being good little citizens and shutting their minds off (maybe they looked at some porn too, but c'mon, what would you expect from teenagers being sent totally mixed messages) Now, I have no idea what these 13 kids actually did that was so bad - but regardless I have a huge problem with technologically illiterate school administrators, small town media, and cops/prosecutors charging high school students with a felony when they (in most cases) truly don't even understand the technology and the terminology around it. I think they are being punished mainly for not conforming and for making the school look stupid. A couple of other posts on here mentioned phrases like "our increasingly vengeance based culture" - and another mentioned that "in American schools the attitude is one of suspicion and enforcement rather than learning" (a problem all across our post 9/11 culture) I think both of these posts are dead on accurate characterizations. If they were changing grades or something then that's a different issue, but that should be handled within the school and even that doesn't warrant charges (especially not felony). If the school was really on the ball and interested in enriching their students maybe they'd give these kids who they've seen are testing their boundaries something fun and truly challenging to do on their computers. (I've made a lot of generalizations in this post, obviously not everything is black and white - I am mainly referring to High Schools and though I generalize, obviously there are the rare exceptions like special teachers or progressive schools, or schools who have IT staff who know how to implement proper security - I guess my point is that this is symptomatic of a lot of our schools these days)
  • Re:Additionally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `srevart.sirhc'> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:43PM (#13362263) Homepage Journal
    Many products, MS Windows Terminal Services among others, do not allow the admin to access the user account without his password.

    If software requires that the admin knows the user's password to do basic administration, then you need to consider alternative technologies.
  • Re:Taped? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:43PM (#13362268) Homepage

    Not sure if it would be making better criminals, but someone needs to explain to these kids about booting in target disc mode. Get a firewire HD shell, preferably a laptop size, a HD, and a copy of Panther of ebay for $30. Then, when they want to do their evil and nefarious iChatting, they can simply reboot off the external HD. Circumvents everything, lets the kids explore (while not at school), and the school should be none the wiser for it.

    For about free, they could use an ubuntu live cd. Either way, non-destructive, untraceable cirvumvention is the key for these students.

  • by MsGeek ( 162936 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:47PM (#13362299) Homepage Journal
    There is a simple way to fix this problem. If you don't want them to use the laptop at home, don't let them take it home.


    "Listen up, kids. You will be given a laptop to use on school premises only. The laptops will be handed to you in Homeroom and must be turned in every day at the end of the last period of classes. If you go off campus for lunch, you must either turn your laptop in for safekeeping at the office or keep it securely locked away in your locker.

    "Abuse of your laptop will be grounds for losing laptop privileges. You will then have to do your school work that requires use of your laptop in the computer lab up until the end of the year. Abuse of your laptop entails downloading porn, music, non-authorized software, or vandalizing your laptop or the laptops of others. Circumvention of the security systems used on campus (Dan's Guardian, Deep Freeze, etc.) will be grounds for losing laptop privileges.

    "Due to security concerns, bringing your own laptop or handheld computer to school is expressly forbidden. Those violating these rules will have their laptop or handheld confiscated and their parents or guardians notified about how to pick up the confiscated property.

    "If you break your laptop and it is determined the breakage is accidental or the result of mechanical breakdown or some other intrinsic failure, you will receive a working laptop in exchange for the disabled laptop. If the breakage is determined to be caused by negligence or vandalism, you will lose your laptop privileges.

    "With privileges such as these come responsibilities. Don't come crying to us if you break the rules and find yourself without your school-issued laptop, because you knew the rules in the first place. To assure us that you do know the rules, you will be given a paper copy of the rules with a form to fill out. Those of you who need assistance with reading the rules or filling out the form will receive the assistance. Only when we are sure you completely understand these rules will we issue you your laptop."

    There. problem solved. Next earth-shaking issue, please...
  • by Darkman, Walkin Dude ( 707389 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:51PM (#13362322) Homepage

    You want to wake up, son. Lets put this in context, shall we? We are talking about a felony, that is entering children into the criminal justice system because the school admins didn't have clue one about how to secure their own systems from... children. The mini emporers in academia need a taste of their own medicine. Honestly speaking, a previous poster pointed out that taping the password to the backs of the computers was tantamount to incitement and solicitation of a minor. I wouldn't just use it as a threat though, I'd go afer the little hitlers until every man jack of them had spent a few months trying out the local prison facilites. Such irresponsible and knee jerk reactionists should under no circumstances be educating children.

    Don't get me wrong, I know some kids are wretched creatures that shouldn't be in general education, but in this case I think an example does need to be made. Of the so called teachers.

  • missed point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vortmax ( 409954 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @12:53PM (#13362334)
    As a parent, what bothers me is that the administration apparently made no attempt to contact the parents. This past year, my oldest was part of group of 3rd graders who were acting up on the playground during recess. They were threated with suspension if their behavoirs did not imporve as a last resort. No time during the process of being called into the principle's office (3 or 4 times) were my wife and I contacted.

    I thought teaching and parenting were a partnership? Screw that. Teachers are underpaid, administrators are over paid. And parents are treated as children. That is the message sent out and the kids see this.

    Had this been my kid and the school contacted me after the first inccident, the problem would have been solved to the benefit of child and the school district.
  • by itsNothing ( 761293 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:07PM (#13362427)
    I give the keys of a car to a kid. He (er, she) gets a ticket for speeding. Or driving under the influence. Or some other offense. They get a ticket. They do it again. They get another ticket. Fairly quickly they will lose their license. Because, driving is a priviledge.

    These kids repeatedly violated the rules of use of the machines. So take the machines away from them! The only unbreakable security strategy is to prevent access to the system.

    Each time the machines were returned to these kids constituted a challenge to them to crack the new level of "security". From what is written, it seems obvious that they demonstrated that they know more about computers than the admin at the school district. If the IT admin staff were only part-time (because they have more relevant obligations, like teaching), why shouldn't we expect that they are less informed than a collection of people who can provide "full-time" energy to the activity? Their mistake and criticizable failure was in not taking the student's machines away from them.

    Moreover, if i give the keys of a car to a drunk, i suspect (warning: IANAL) then i have liability if that person commits a crime (kills someone with the car, etc.). I believe this falls under aiding and abetting a crime. If the school's admins knew that these people were continually hacking the systems yet continued to provide them with the tools to do so, aren't they also liable?

  • Re:Additionally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Takumi2501 ( 728347 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:17PM (#13362493)
    Often the software used to change a password can spot a weak one (sequential numbers/letters, dictionary words, etc.) and prevent a user from setting it. With decent software and configuration, it isn't necessary to have a password "approved" by an actual person.

    Not the mention, the more inconvenient it is for a user to change his/her password, the less likely it is that s/he will do it.
  • by nxtw ( 866177 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:20PM (#13362506)
    The issue here is that the kids were _given_ these laptops to use for the school year. They were permitted to take them home and use them on networks other than the schools'.

    A computer is NOT a house. A computer can essentially be restored to its original (software) state with minimal effort. I highly doubt all six hundred laptops were individually configured, and instead had some sort of imaging or automated network install, so any broken installations could be restored easily. From what I have been told about Mac OS X, there is an option to reinstall the system without deleting user profiles, so students wouldn't even have to lose files (if they weren't stored or backed up on a network.)

    But if I walk into someone's (unlocked) house, and steal their TV, jewelry, and other items of value, they've lost them. They can't go restore the backup. They can't put in a few CDs and reinstall their stolen TV and jewelry. Their only hope is to have the items recovered somehow.

  • by Radical Rad ( 138892 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:21PM (#13362516) Homepage
    I agree that PC's don't need to be in every classroom. There are some classes where they are needed though, for example in a business department to teach typing and the basics of word processing and spreadsheets. They can also be useful in other classes from Civics to Auto Shop to illustrate concepts and demonstrate how to find resources on the internet. But in those cases I believe it is more useful to have one computer with an LCD projector which would simply supplement the blackboard.

    I don't see any sense in limiting children to Microsoft products though which is what most school boards are doing. KDE/Gnome and Open Office contain 95% of the same functionality as MS Office but with easier administration and better security. Eliminating the license fees for MS Windows, MS Office, Windows Server, Visual Studio, MS Backoffice, and all the client access licenses to connect to MS server products would allow the district to purchase many more bare-metal commodity PC's within the same capital budget.

    And for teaching programming before college, Linux is a dream. There are a plethora of programming tools and compilers for every language under the sun, and most of them are free. Linux has taken the server market by storm and is also becoming the standard for small devices. School administrators should look 5-10 years down the road at when these kids will be college graduates and prepare them now for the Open Source future they will be living and working in.
  • by Zork the Almighty ( 599344 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:24PM (#13362535) Journal
    You could teach photography with a Photoshop component. You could teach a film class and use digital video. You could teach music and at the end of the term have the students compose a work and play it on a synthesizer. Or how about shop class ? They could use a CAD program and a computer controlled lathe. These sorts of things work best when they are used at the end of the term. As a reward for the students' hard work learning the foundations of their subject, they get to use some modern tools that people actually use today. It can be a good incentive to learn.
  • Re:Human error (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Urchlay ( 518024 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:28PM (#13362560)
    Instead, they wanted me to use the AUTOEXEC.BAT batch file to launch the menu system rather than a menuing application started directly on bootup. Why? So that they could watch and see who hit CTRL-C at boot to exit the batch file.

    When I was 11 or 12, in public school, we got computers (TRS-80 CoCo's, which dates me I guess). The first day we had them, the teacher told us to turn them on, then don't touch anything until she told us to...

    Well, I turned mine on, and the monitor just showed a black picture. So I turned up the brightness (it was down all the way), and fixed it. It never occurred to me that "don't touch anything" included the brightness control; I'd had one of those on my TV for as long as I could remember. I thought she meant "don't type anything"...

    So I got suspended from school for a week. For turning up the brightness. Looking back on it now, I can see that I deserved *something* for disobeying a direct order... detention perhaps, or losing computer privileges for a week...

    Of course, back then I thought of being suspended as a great vacation. I got to stay home and play with my computer (Atari 400, which I liked better than the CoCo anyway).

    The thing was, when the teacher saw me tweak that knob, the expression on her face was one of *terror*. Not surprise, or anger... Utter, abject fear. I can only assume it was the machines she was afraid of, not me (I was big for my age, but not known for beating people up, especially not teachers).

    Then and now, the teachers and administrators probably resent having to have the computers at all. They don't understand computers (well, OK, most people don't), but they *do* understand that the kids know more about computers than they ever will, which makes the adults feel like they're not in control. The type of person who becomes a school administrator is the type who hates being out of control, so they use (or abuse) their authority to make sure the kids are too terrified to step out of line.

    Not too long ago, I did a contract job for a school system, setting up routers and proxy (censoring) software. One day the boss (former English teacher who was put in charge of the school's IT dept) asked me what I was doing, so I told her. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was probably something like "I'm installing Apache so you can use this CGI script to configure your whitelist and blacklist for the squid proxy". Her response was, "Don't use all those technical terms with me! How would you like it if I used educational jargon when talking to you?"

    It almost made me crack up laughing... but she was dead serious. So I calmed myself, and I told her (and not in a smart-assed way either): "Well, if you used words I didn't understand, I'd ask you to explain them. You're a teacher, so you're probably pretty good at that. I was trying to communicate with you, not confuse you, so tell me what I said that you didn't understand, and I'll try to explain it."

    She got *pissed*. I mean red-faced, white-knuckled, and shaking. She stormed off...

    A week later my company was officially fired from that contract (possibly *only* because of that incident, but probably not: we were behind schedule, partly because we kept having explain basic networking concepts to the school's IT employees, who were supposed to be supervising us). Since then, I've avoided public schools like the plague, and been happier for it. If I ever have kids, there's no way I'd send them to a school where people like that English teacher have authority over them.

    If these "hackers" were my kids, I wouldn't punish them, but I would take them aside and explain that the mundanes are terrified of them, and ask them to hide their brains when in such company. I'd tell 'em not to worry, the cream always rises to the top... I'd also send 'em to a good private school, even if it meant a second or third mortgage on the house.

  • Re:Human error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:38PM (#13362621)
    authoritarian society continually harasses people and pushes them around

    Um, so, issuing a kid free computer hardware as part of their education, telling them not to screw it up (and not to risk infecting the network that that their fellow students and staff rely upon), and then, when the kids explicitly do exactly the thing they know they're not supposed to, getting them in trouble for that... that's "pushing them around?"

    How is that different than the kid taking high school driver's ed deciding he's going to take the Toyota Corolla for which he's just been handed the keys, and deciding to "explore" the soccer field with it? He knows he's not supposed to, and he knows that if he's that interested in screwing around with cars he can get a job or ask his parents to buy him his own "exploration" platform to which he can do whatever he wants.

    will be detained, beaten, fined, and thrown in jail.

    Really. So, you hate the boss's rules about not, what - wasting printer paper? - and if you somehow rebel, you get beaten and thrown in jail? I see. Now, we get non-stop, round-the-clock cable news coverage and lawsuits when someone gets roughed up by a security guard at Best Buy, but no non-crazy-blog coverage of this sort of thing? Any chance that perhaps your personality or judgement has had a grating way of pissing off a lot of the people with which you've interacted? It sounds like you consider your "microscopic sphere of influence" to be the "most important thing in the universe." Any chance that's part of the friction? Even a part of it?

    I say "Keep it up!" The American Empire is going the way of the Roman Empire.

    Because, what, the institutions and operations that make things like the internet you're using right this minute even possible will somehow work better for you when there's no expectation of consequences for people's attempts to damage it?
  • Re:Human error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by miskatonic alumnus ( 668722 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @01:57PM (#13362724)
    No, pushing kids around is charging them with a felony for naturally exploring the boundaries (which kids will most definitely do) after not having told them of the potential consequences of their actions. Yes, absolutely, that is abuse. And what great damage will come if the network gets infected with a virus? Will the world come to an end? Let's at least give credit where credit is due. Your blessed, most holy authorities fucked up yet again (as they always do) by leaving the passwords in plain sight. But do THEY get charged with a felony for possibly screwing up their precious network? No, HELL NO, they must redirect it to the little guys. What a way to teach children the concept of responsibility. Monkey see, monkey do.
  • by vijayiyer ( 728590 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @02:20PM (#13362822)
    A laptop isn't a device meant to be secured. A basic tenet of computer security is that anyone with physical access to the hardware effectively has admin access. What if the students simply wiped the drive or put a different one in? Would that be "hacking" deserving of a felony charge too? It seems like these children were baited to have their lives ruined. How did the massive amounts of taxpayer dollars help them?
  • Re:Human error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @02:42PM (#13362917)
    Look, chemistry instructors that position bunsen burners and spark igniters out on a high school lab bench are not and should not get "credit where credit is due" when a student "naturally explores boundaries" by seeing what happens when they torch various things around the classroom, or rig up a leak so that the next person who does sit down to use the lab gets to experience an explosion. The fact that some jerky kids will do this (because their "natural" need to explore doesn't include any of the "natural" common sense that would help them see when they're about to do something they already know they shouldn't, or their natural disposition is to prefer to see chaos or damage happen to other people) means that the people whose jobs are on the line have to set down rules that say You Can't Screw Around With This Equipment - Only Use It In The Way We're Describing.

    What, you'd have every possible apparatus, tool, supply, or pointy object in a school setting come with a laundry list of every single thing that you shouldn't do with it? How about giving the average kid enough credit to know that intentionally doing something they've been asked not to do is bad news, period. And that actions deliberately taken to cause harm (like, shoving a pair of school scissors into the radiator fins of a school air conditioner unit) still aren't OK even though the students weren't issued any paperwork or lectures on that specific bad act.

    For as many times as students have acted to do felony-worthy things like vandalize networks or corrupt things like academic records or obtain payroll data on teachers, etc, it's certainly reasonable to have a single rule that says "only use this equipment in the way we've described, and that includes not installing stuff that's not already there."

    Just because the staff lounge isn't locked doesn't mean that it's reasonable for a student to wander in an hose the place up or look for private papers in someone's briefcase, or find a phone with which to make long distance calls to Peru.

    No, HELL NO, they must redirect it to the little guys

    No, the "little guys" are the people who are using the school's equipment in the way they've been asked to, and who may or may not be hacking their way to glory on their own home equipment on their own time, with someone else dealing with any support fallout. The people who decide that the school's equipment needs some new communication software installed on it, despite being told not to do that - they are not "the little guys," they're the guys that presume the rules set up to avoid all sorts of potential legal problems, sensitive data loss, expensive equipemnt maintenance, and classroom disruption don't apply to "explorers" such as themselves.

    I'm all for exploring. Do it in the computer lab, and show the instructor the cool thing you want to try. Or do it on the free one-generation-old PC that is sitting out on the curb of every suburban neighborhood in the country. Don't raise my property taxes so that the school can afford to pay the new IT guy they just had to hire because there are no consequences for deliberately Pnwing school hardware and systems.
  • Re:Human error (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkVader ( 121278 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @03:21PM (#13363079)
    The thing I can't comprehend is why you think you needed some sort of punishment for taking some sort of initiative and fixing a VERY simple and obvious problem. If nothing else, the teacher needed some more education, not you - something on sensitivity and abuse of authority.

    She obviously had some sort of control issue.
  • by Gilatrout ( 694977 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @03:37PM (#13363138)
    I'd spend some time looking it over, making sure the anti-virus etc was set up correctly and if I found a password taped to the bottom, you can bet I'd try it to see what happened. I cannot fault a child for anything I would do myself. However once I identified what that password was associated with, you can bet I'd be on the phone and raise holy hell with the asshat that was incompetent enough not to memorize the admin password and taped it to each computer.
  • Re:Human error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tftp ( 111690 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @03:50PM (#13363185) Homepage
    It is always a good policy to be smart in a smart company and stupid in a stupid company. This has nothing to do with condescending or being arrogant; it's actually being both practical and friendly. Advertising your differences won't make you safer.

    But of course if a bunch of your son's friends wants, as a game, to find out if any cars in the lot are unlocked, your son, being smart, will find an excuse to stay away from that activity.

  • Re:Human error (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @03:56PM (#13363209)
    When I try to come up with a hint for myself, I usually end up outwitting myself. The Friday afternoon password changing me is a lot smarter than hungover Monday morning me.

    Never change a password before a weekend, holidays or other period of longer than usal absence.

  • Re:Additionally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IgnoramusMaximus ( 692000 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @04:20PM (#13363294)
    Anyway, that was kind of a ramble, but my point is that it's a philosophical difference. Windows is designed in most ways to be Nerfed so that you don't shoot your eye out, and most of your admins don't know how to access restricted information without leaving a trail.

    The only thing it achieves is to make pointy-haired cretin bosses warm and fuzzy and the admin's life miserable. Keyloggers, fancy stealth rootkits etc etc. If a competent admin goes "rouge" watch out. Windows is a system by idiots for idiots and I cringe everytime I have to use the thing in serious environments, alas, I have a little choice. Bill has us all cornered with the deep penetration of the business world combined with unimaginable, self-reinforcing inertia. That and the fact that most users/developers for Windows are idiots to begin with.

  • Re:Human error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HBI ( 604924 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @04:30PM (#13363334) Journal
    You make the mistake of thinking you can educate the fundamental stupidity out of people. You can't.
  • by TerminaMorte ( 729622 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @04:45PM (#13363396) Homepage
    You're 15, and it shows in your typing.

    If you don't respect your mom already, and you still need to be spanked when you're 15, then the problem is probably with your mother (as well as with you).

    Your freedom? What the hell? It's a privilege, not a right, to use laptops provided by the school. If anything, they're taking away the schools freedom to use their equipment as they see fit.

    The diffrence between this and installing Linux on your iPod is that you do not own the laptop. It's not for your enjoyment, it's for school purposes only.

    These kids deserve what they get.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @05:10PM (#13363495)
    I get tired of this /. wanna-be hacker mentality that seems to be if you CAN do something you SHOULD be allowed to, and face no repercussions for it.

    I mean look, if someone has physical access to a machine, they can get root, period. Any barriers you put in the way are only superficial and will only slow them down, if anything. We always operate under that assumption at work. We don't try and pretend we have an unhackable system because there's no such then when someone is physically at the computer. Rather we put in place as good a system as possible, and if someone insists on breaking it we take action which can range from having the department head talking to the to calling the police.

    So it sounds like these kids were given plenty of chances, but they decided that there was just no real consequences so they'd just keep doing it. That's a very similar mindset to vandals that go around bashing in car windows and so on.

    Now if they actually try and lock these kids up till they are 21 or something else, then yes I'll call it an overreation. However I don't think facing criminal charges is unreasonable, and if they get community service and probation, I think that's fine.

    I won't give the kids crap for messing with the laptops initally, when the password was on the laptop, I mean even though it's technicly not allowed, it's just too tempting. If I leave my front door hanging open, it's still tresspassing to come inside, but I really can't blame a curious kid that does that.

    However when the passwords were changed and the kids not only broke in, but disabled the school's administrative access, well that's another thing entirely. Now we are talking about kids who disable the security system on my windows, come in, and try to mess with my door lock so I can't get in. That's serious.

    I personally don't think taking away the laptops is a severe enough solution. I think it would just reenforce the idea that it's ok to cause trouble on comptuers, since nothing will ever really happen to you.

    We encounter those kind of people on campus peridocly, they think they can just break in to other people's systems and it's ok, because it's just computers and no real consequences will result. We had one kid that took out the main library's network several times, trying to get Cain and Able to work right. He was convicted of a crime, by the way. Right now we have someone who's pretty clearly on campus, but smart enough to route through a system outside that is methodicly trying to break in to UNIX systems all over campus, with some success. It's likely to be a rather large sentence when they catch this guy, as it has caused a lot of problems and lots time and the guy just won't quit.

    I think tech savvy kinds need to learn that it's not ok to just disregard people's rights to their computers. It's not ok to break in to something just because you have the technical ability. And it's not a case of "Don't do this or we'll make it harder for you by taking away your access" it's "Don't do this because it is wrong, and there are real consequences".
  • Re:Human error (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 20, 2005 @05:55PM (#13363654)

    How is that different than the kid taking high school driver's ed deciding he's going to take the Toyota Corolla for which he's just been handed the keys, and deciding to "explore" the soccer field with it?

    Well, for one, you're pioleting a 8 pound piece of laptop in a fashon that's not going to break it (you can ghost it...), instead of a multiton vehicle...I think most kids have the intelligence not to rampage around in a multiton vehicle in a fashon thats going to break it( and if they don't you teach them).

    He knows he's not supposed to, and he knows that if he's that interested in screwing around with cars he can get a job or ask his parents to buy him his own "exploration" platform to which he can do whatever he wants.

    Ok, so if the school lets him piolet one of their vans, then it's not allright to give the school a lawnjob. But if he buys the car himself, it is allright?

    I'd bet the soccer team would have a problem with that... :-X

    Look, the only reason I know what I know about computers is because I haven't been afriad to break them. These kids saw the admin passwords on the back of the machines, entered them in, and began exploring (the school probably didn't even tell them not to screw with it). It's like putting a do not enter sign on a door then leaving the key in the lock. If the cops can search your vehicle if you leave the door open, then if you leave the key in the lock can't that also be construed as a come on in signal?

    If I were the principal, I'd get someone to take the admin logins off of the back of the machines, change them around to new ones, give the book to the IT guy for safekeeping and keep one myself in an office safe, then I'd sit down with the kids, tell them not to do it again, explain to them that it causes us headaches when they screw with the machines, then I'd hand them fliers to 2600 meetings and college computer courses or something for them to dabble in so they get some exposure to their own kind and how mature adult hackers act.

    And trust me, you sit these kids down with a real hacker and the guy begins teaching them politics and computer science, and you've got a good thing going on.
  • Re:STFU, neocon (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UpLateDrinkingCoffee ( 605179 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:14PM (#13363924)
    And the funniest part is that actually I am quite conservative, except I stay away from Limbaugh and Orielly and do my best to think for myself.

    I firmly believe criminals must face justice but I also believe the punishment should fit the crime (and "crime" doesn't really fit in this case). Felonies used to be for the worst crimes... murder, rape, or gunpoint robberies. Now they are about some small town school principal trying to prove that he is still in control.

    Disclaimer: I don't know for a fact it's the principal of this school driving this stuff. You get the point, though.

  • by Alsee ( 515537 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:24PM (#13363956) Homepage
    Our earth is degenerate in these latter days; bribery and corruption are common; children no longer obey their parents; and the end of the world is evidently approaching. --"Assyrian clay tablet 2800 B.C"

  • Re:Human error (Score:2, Insightful)

    by E8086 ( 698978 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:32PM (#13363985)
    I'm going to call small town politc-ing and witch hunt on this one. According to the comments there were around 160 students caught doing something they should not have been doing. And none of them were seniors, no reason to keep them out of college, or the child of someone who worked for that school or the board of ed. or was part of a family that had any influence in their town. Looks like they're going after those who wouldn't have the money fight back. But it doesn't say what was done, simply logging in with the provided pword or changing software or even looking at porn. There's currently no way of knowing who did what, if those 13 did the worst or they were the lucky 13 not liked by the school administration.
    I'd like to see the signed agreements, the one the parents got and the parent approved version signed by the students, can't have minors entering into legally binding contracts without parental approval. I'm guessing if there was one it was as full of holes as a bad shrink/click-wrapped EULA.
    What happens next year if parents refuse to allow their kid to accept the school's iFelony machine? Will they scrap the program and sell the used ones for $49.99?
  • by gitana ( 756955 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @07:51PM (#13364079) Homepage

    The REASON why respect for authority must be learned is because of PERSPECTIVE. There are times when those who are in authority have access to additional facts or mitigating circumstances that they simply do not have time to stop and explain to those who are under their authority.

    Hypothetical case in point: If a policeman comes to your door, and tells you that the neighborhood must be evacuated immediately, you certainly have a right to know why. But you *must* comply with his directive first (under current laws)... and an explanation is not legally necessary. If there was a sitaution that put the entire neighborhood at risk, and time was of the essence to evacuate, causing a policeman to stop and explain his directives to everyone could cause someone else danger.

    People in power should be given authority because they have already earned the respect of those who they will have authority over. People in power also must continue behave in a manner that remains worthy of respect under scrutiny.

    In the case of your police example, if a police department consistently and fairly enforces the law, responds rationally and appropriately to threats, and quickly weeds out any corruption in its ranks, then, when a police officer shows up at my door and informs me that it is an emergency and I must evacuate I will trust and quickly comply with this command.

    On the other hand, if a police department is seen as corrupt, unfair, inefficient, or irrational in its response to threats then, when a police officer shows up at my door I will have grounds to be suspicious, ask questions, and possibly not comply with what I am asked to do.

    All respect is earned and can be lost.

  • by Generalisimo Zang ( 805701 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @08:00PM (#13364119)

    Looking back on it now, I can see that I deserved *something* for disobeying a direct order... detention perhaps, or losing computer privileges for a week...

    No. You deserved no punishment whatsoever for turning up the brightness on a monitor that had the brightness all the way down. Making that sort of adjustment is common sense.

    In fact, anyone who would suggest that displaying common sense is a crime, or that military-type jargon such as "disobeying a direct order" is something that we should be using to educate school children, is not thinking correctly.

    In fact, the whole idea that public schools should be run like a semi boot-camp type environment, with "direct orders" and "zero tolerance policies" and a complete and utter disdain for individual creative thinking, is just plain wrong.

    I was in the military for many years, and I know exactly what military-style training can and can't achieve. It's excellent for turning out people who will do things EXACTLY as ordered, and PRECISELY according to a pre-determined plan. It's really not that great at teaching creative thinking, or instilling a system of personal ethics that aren't imposed by an outside authority. It's great for cranking out infantrymen, and pretty darn awfull for instilling any sort of American democratic and egalitarian ideals.

    Heck, if the teacher in charge of that class had bothered to do her jo, and pre-check each machine and each monitor before class to ensure that the basic settings were correct, then the problem wouldn't have arisen in the first place. Oh, but wait, that would require people in positions of petty authority to take RESPONSIBILITY for their own actions.... definatelly a part of the military tradition that school authorities would want to run from like the plague ;) I mean, making KIDS be responsible for their actions is cool, but actually holding teachers and administrators to the same standard? Heh.. it'll never happen.

  • Re:STFU, neocon (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tom's a-cold ( 253195 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @08:46PM (#13364294) Homepage
    And the funniest part is that actually I am quite conservative, except I stay away from Limbaugh and Orielly and do my best to think for myself.
    I'm far from conservative, though some friends and family are. I've observed three paths that lead to conservatism: one is through respect for tradition; another is through reasoning based on certain principles; and another is due to a psychological deficit that leads to anger, scapegoating, the desire for punishment, and the need to identify with abusive authority figures.

    I've found it possible to talk to those who became conservative by the first two paths, though we have some fundamental differences.

    Sadly, Rush and O'Reilly appeal to the last of these groups. And the behavior of the school authorities in this case seem to fit that profile: fearful, arbitrary, disproportionate. Why are they coming down like a ton of bricks on these kids? Because they can, and because administering punishment turns them on.

  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Saturday August 20, 2005 @11:39PM (#13364835)
    Those who didn't miss the irony in my post may appreciate the fact that the laptops in question were manufactored by Apple. And Apple is a company founded by individuals who partook in simular activities [] as those that the parent poster claims would be the downfall of our society. It might be noted that these types of people are not unique in the Valley or the IT industry in general.
  • Re:Human error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Sunday August 21, 2005 @02:37AM (#13365357)
    Teaching your kids that they have to dumb themselves down near the "mundane" - that's teaching them condesencion and arrogance.
    Or perhaps it is teaching modesty?

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.