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Criminal Behavior - or Mischief??

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I've already called the school and you should too, this kind of over reaction needs to stop, the teacher left her computer unlocked and the prosecutor "feels comfortable" prosecuting an 11 year old for a felony.. thinking people know this is getting out of hand..

Here is the Principal and schools address:

Helen Roberts, Principal
1001 SW Juliet Avenue
Port St. Lucie, FL 34953
(772) 785-6630

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 deputy.

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 degree."

"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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Only in America 12.Feb.2003 15:42

Pat McGroin

Let's see if I have this right. Florida, the "WE DON"T COUNT STATE", is charging an eleven year old with a felony. This is the swampland state that robbed 60,000 voters of their right to vote in the 2000 "election" and they are going after a child for changing his grades. But FL 'standards he should be promoted. Let's sell FL to Cuba or anyone who will take. Send the troops to FL not Iraq.