[ISN] Grade-changing student avoids felony trial

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Mar 03 2003 - 01:23:09 PST

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    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 
    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 
    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."
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