[ISN] Schools adopt new policies for bright troublemakers

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Tue Sep 01 1998 - 18:17:13 PDT

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    Schools adopt new policies for bright troublemakers
    School pranks go high-tech 
    WASHINGTON (August 31, 1998 5:13 p.m. EDT
    http://www.nandotimes.com) -- Classroom hellions are using computers to
    download porn, change grades, swap passwords and send threatening e-mail
    when the teacher isn't looking. Often, the brightest students are doing
    the mischief, and school officials are struggling with how to discipline
    The naughty students bring in homemade programs to disable school
    software, install point-and-shoot war games, make counterfeit money and
    design scathing sites on the World Wide Web. 
    "You'd be amazed at what they can do," says Jeannine Clark, assistant
    principal of Clarkstown High School North in New City, N.Y. "Clearly, a
    new set of guidelines is needed" -- guidelines Clark calls "nerd
    Seventy-eight percent of the nation's public schools today are connected
    to the Internet, according to the National Center for Education
    Statistics. Educators nationwide have responded to cyberspace antics with
    a patchwork of Internet-use policies, outlining the dos and don'ts of
    being on-line at school. 
    Some are strictly written with harsh punishments for offenders. Others
    have weak consequences or use vague terms, such as "objectionable" or
    "offensive," to describe the kinds of Web sites that students are
    forbidden to visit. 
    Often harder than writing the policies, however, is punishing offenders. 
    Routine suspension is often not the best approach for bright students,
    says Clark. And some parents, who don't want their children sitting in a
    suspension room missing honors English, think computer experiments are
    good even if Johnny breaks school rules. 
    "As one father told me, it's perfectly acceptable to allow his child to
    experiment," Clark says. "After all, we didn't want to squash his
    curiosity, did we?" 
    Suspending computer privileges, on the other hand, can be
    counterproductive for students taking courses requiring daily computer
    access. Grades can suffer.  Credits can be lost. Students can drop in
    class ranking. 
    So an alternate punishment -- a "monitored probation" -- was set up to let
    students use computers, but only in closely watched settings, Clark says. 
    Reminding students of the importance of a college recommendation also
    works to keep some college-bound computer troublemakers in line. 
    Nancy Willard, an information technology consultant from Eugene, Ore.,
    advises school districts to take Internet privileges away from computer
    abusers and make them earn them back. Students who surf sexually explicit
    sites, for example, might be assigned to write a research paper on victims
    of sexual abuse. 
    In Cashmere, Wash., six high schoolers were suspended for up to 10 days
    last school year for posting a list of more than 300 students, and
    suggestions on how each might die. Five students apparently convinced the
    sixth, who had computer expertise, to put the list on the World Wide Web,
    according to Gary Harden, who was student body president at the school
    where he graduated this year. 
    "They were all suspended and each of them had to write an essay about good
    uses for the Internet," Harden said, adding that he hasn't heard of any
    pranks since. "I think our administration wanted to hammer down so it
    wouldn't happen again." 
    Educators, however, also must be careful that they don't trample on
    student rights. 
    A school district in Westlake, Ohio, agreed in April to pay $30,000 to a
    student who set up a Web site -- from a home computer -- that made fun of
    his high school band teacher. The 17-year-old baritone player was
    suspended for eight days, but sued the school district, saying the action
    violated his right to free speech. A judge agreed. 
    "I feel that in school you should be held responsible for following the
    rules they set," said the student, Sean O'Brien, who will be a senior this
    year at Westlake High School. 
    "But for me, I was being penalized in school for something I did out of
    By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
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