Break the rule, pay the consequences

They even have a catchy name—the Kutztown 13. Thirteen students from a high school in Kutztown, PA have been charged with a third-degree felony for doing something as seemingly innocuous as downloading iChat, the instant messaging client that is included in the default installation of every Macintosh computer sold by Apple, onto their district supplied iBooks. This has led to the predictable “headlines” such as this one from the ioerror blog: Kutztown, Pa. school district: Downloading iChat is a felony. The story has even been picked up by Wired News: Kutztown 13 Face Felony Charges.

According to their parents, the students are being unfairly treated for just being curious kids and outsmarting their “inept” elders. The school district tells a different story.


  • the kids have been briefed on the school’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) every year since the fifth grade
  • the AUP is posted in computer labs and libraries at the school
  • the AUP was sent to parents for their signature
  • this was not the first offense for any of the 13
  • previous infractions had resulted in
    • detentions
    • in-school suspensions
    • loss of Internet access
    • loss of computer privileges
  • parents were notified after the above of each

Only after the above, and the misuse escalated to gaining administrative privileges, were the police contacted per the AUP!

Parents are upset that their precious children are being mistreated. After all they were only exploring and being curious—aren’t those things that we look at as being important to the educational process. These students should be lauded, not disciplined. One student’s uncle has even created a web site where the students tell their side of the story. He is quoted in the Wired article as saying,

“As parents, we don’t want our kid breaking in to the Defense Department or stealing credit card numbers. But downloading iChat and chatting with their friends? They are not hurting anybody. They’re just curious.”

Everyone but the school district and the police department is missing the real problem. The students are not being disciplined for downloading iChat or chatting with their friends. They aren’t even being disciplined for cracking and sharing the password that enabled them to download the software. They are being disciplined for repeatedly breaking the AUP and not responding to previous warnings and discipline. The school district is simply abiding by the rules that were agreed to by everyone involved.

The real problem is that no matter how clever the students were, what they did violated the AUP, and this was wrong. It doesn’t matter how silly it might be to forbid IM software on a student laptop, the rule was no IM software. Break the rule, pay the consequences…

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In which Mark can't believe how many people have missed the point...

August 10, 2005 | Apple | random

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