LA Unified Wants Student Hackers on an Anti-Hacking Panel
Brenda Iasevoli | September 26, 2013
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Los Angeles Unified will assemble a student committee to advise its response to the recent security breach of district-issued iPads by 185 high school students, Ron Chandler, the district’s chief information officer, said yesterday.
The move is the district’s attempt to find a way to balance students’ desires to surf the web unfettered with the district’s job of keeping kids safe.
Chandler told LA School Report in an email later that he hoped some of the students who hacked the iPads would be a part of the student advisory committee.
After talking to the students involved in the hacking, the district decided the security on the tablets “is probably more restrictive than it needs to be,” Chandler told a district Board committee that monitors the iPad initiative. The question now is how much of what students want to access—namely YouTube, Twitter and Facebook—should be allowed.
“What this forces is a conversation,” said Chandler, addressing the concern over which websites students should be allowed to access. “I might add that this is a conversation that is going on across the country.”
The security breach took place when students were allowed to take their tablets home. Tablets can be locked down so students are unable to browse the internet at home, but the district doesn’t think this is a constructive option, according to Chandler.
Monica Ratliff, the committee chair, expressed concern over students’ taking the devices home without the board oversight committee’s approval.
“We had been told the [iPads] were eventually going to go home, but that they were not going home yet,” Ratliff said. “So I really think we should have clarification about what was said and when.”
Chandler responded that it was his understanding the decision rested with principals. He promised to provide the sequence of decisions on the matter at the board’s next meeting.
With the $1 billion tablet initiative poised to put iPads in the hands of LA Unified’s 630,000 students by 2014, the district must work quickly to update its tech-related discipline policy. The district is also launching a cyber awareness campaign that aims to educate students, parents and teachers about the responsible use of technology.
To date, the district has handed out 12,500 iPads at 21 schools. This week, 5,000 more tablets will be passed out at six schools. Twenty remaining schools will receive their devices by the end of October.
The students who figured out how to hack the iPad’s security system came from three high schools—Roosevelt, Westchester and Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences. Upon hearing of the iPad breach, Superintendent John Deasy ordered all tablets be returned to schools and remain there until the district decides how to handle the problem.
Chandler emphasized that the websites students accessed were “innocent.” Still, principals will decide if and how students will be punished for their actions.