[ISN] Sixth-grader charged in grade switch caper

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Feb 13 2003 - 01:28:50 PST

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    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    By Nirvi Shah
    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, February 12, 2003
    PORT ST. LUCIE -- While other students ate turkey tetrazzini in the
    cafeteria, a St. Lucie West Middle sixth-grader used the excuse of
    forgetting his lunch to return to his reading classroom and sat down
    at his teacher's computer to change five reading assignment grades,
    St. Lucie County sheriff's deputies said Tuesday.
    The 11-year-old student, who faces a 10-day suspension and a
    principal's recommendation that he be expelled, was arrested Monday on
    a felony charge of offense against intellectual property.
    The boy told reading teacher Susan Seal he left his lunch in her room,
    according to a sheriff's report. Instead of retrieving his meal, he
    sat down at her computer, changed the grades of five reading
    assignments and saved the changes. Math teacher Tanya Schmidt saw the
    boy at the computer and asked what he was doing.
    "He told her that Mrs. Seal sent him to get a floppy disk," according
    to the report.
    When Schmidt talked with Seal, she found out the student was lying. He
    was sent to the office, where the dean called the school resource
    According to state law, "Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without
    authorization modifies data... residing or existing internal or
    external to a computer... for the purpose of devising or executing any
    scheme or artifice to defraud... is guilty of a felony of the second
    "He modified data. I'd say it was a scheme to defraud," said Ellen
    Mancini, an assistant state attorney in the St. Lucie County juvenile
    division. "That's what he did."
    Despite the boy's age and the rarity of the crime -- Sheriff Ken
    Mascara said it is the first case he has seen -- Mancini said she
    would be comfortable prosecuting it.
    "It's cheating. It's depriving other students of the fairness of the
    system," she said. "It's as much a fraud as anything else. Sometimes,
    you have to do things as an example of the authority of both the
    school system and the legal system."
    St. Lucie West Middle teachers use electronic grade books to track
    grades, determine averages and create biweekly progress reports to
    send to parents, Principal Helen Roberts said. Teachers have passwords
    to access their books, but Seal's was open when the student went into
    her classroom, Roberts said.
    "There's also a way to lock it down, and we sent out reminders about
    how to do that," she said.
    The St. Lucie school district lists "the changing, erasing, removing
    or otherwise manipulating computer data through unauthorized entry" in
    its code of conduct as among the most serious infractions. It calls
    for an automatic 10-day suspension and recommendation for expulsion
    and "may result in... referral to appropriate law enforcement agency."
    Neither the student nor his parents could be reached Tuesday.
    The student couldn't get into the school district's mainframe and
    couldn't access grades in his other classes from the teacher's
    computer, school district spokeswoman Michelle Sjogren said.
    The student was booked into the St. Lucie County jail, then released
    to his father. Mancini said he could face several years in a juvenile
    detention facility, if convicted.
    "Obviously, this is a very serious offense," Sjogren said. "Students
    need to know it has serious consequences."
    Staff writer Will Vash contributed to this story.
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