http://www.gopbi.com/partners/pbpost/epaper/editions/friday/news_e3e53f3fe551216310b0.html By Kelly Wolfe Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Friday, February 28, 2003 A sixth-grader arrested two weeks ago for using his reading teacher's computer to change some grades won't be prosecuted as a felon, the state attorney's office said Thursday. Instead, he'll be routed through a diversionary program for first time, nonviolent offenders. Although the details have to be worked out, Juvenile Prosecutor Ellen Mancini said the boy could be ordered to complete several hours of community service, write a letter of apology or author an essay. If the boy doesn't fulfill those conditions, he could still face criminal charges, Mancini said. "With first-time offenders, you want to keep them on the right path," Mancini said. The boy's father said Thursday night that he hadn't heard about the diversion program, but that the family's attorney, Robert Udell, told him "things looked good." "He's already written letters of apology," the boy's father said. "I made him do that first thing." A resource deputy at St. Lucie West Middle School arrested the 11-year-old on a felony charge of an offense against intellectual property for changing his grades while the rest of his class was at lunch. 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. His teacher's electronic grade book, which requires a password, was open on the computer's desktop. Another teacher walking by confronted the boy, and he was sent to the dean's office. The dean referred the case to the deputy. The St. Lucie County 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." School district spokeswoman Michelle Sjogren said the district could not comment on the state's decision not to prosecute. She said she also couldn't say when the boy would return to St. Lucie West Middle School. The boy was immediately suspended from school for 10 days after his arrest Feb. 10. Earlier this week, however, the school district decided not to expel the boy. He is expected to return to St. Lucie West Middle. The boy's father said Tuesday that his son could be back at school today. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said it is not uncommon for a first-time offender to be routed through a diversionary program. "In this case, the safeguards after arrest worked to a T," he said. The boy's case received national attention this month when a Palm Beach Post story about the sixth-grader was mentioned in the Drudge Report -- drudgereport.com -- an online news source, sparking an electronic debate over the arrest. "The kid needs suspension at most and a severe talking-to," wrote L. Smith of Sydney, Australia. "But bringing the law and police into it is ludicrous." - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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