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Boys could face charges in computer caper

Police are deciding whether to charge a pair of Fairfax County, Virginia, middle school students with a crime, after they allegedly used stolen passwords to tamper with school software.

The potential juvenile crime was reported when administrators from Lake Braddock Secondary School returned to school after winter break on Jan. 3, 2012, and found that extensive content had been wiped from the school's computer software. Teachers use the Blackboard system, as it is called, to list class work, and parents use it as a tool to communicate with teachers.

In this instance, someone used the Blackboard software to send pornographic messages to students that were made to look as if teachers had sent them, according to an official with the Fairfax County Public Schools.

Students and parents began to comment over the break that the Blackboard system was lacking the usual information and was sending out the offensive emails. After an investigation, officials targeted two boys who reportedly knew the passwords of 17 teachers at the school.

While district officials declined further comment about the boys or the disciplinary action the school might take, Fairfax police said they were taking the allegations seriously and deciding what charges, if any, to file.

This is not the Fairfax district's first experience with Blackboard tampering. In 2010, a third-grade student, using his teacher's password, entered the system to delete information and to change administrators' passwords. Police said the boy did not knowingly commit a crime and didn't pursue charges.

A spokesman for Blackboard, which is based in Washington, D.C., said the company should be able to find and replace the content that was wiped off in the most recent case.

If police do file charges, it is worth exploring whether or not the boys knew whether or not they were doing anything illegal. An experienced criminal defense attorney could help find out.

Source: The Washington Post, "Fairfax officials: 2 Lake Braddock students stole passwords, erased school data," Emma Brown, Jan. 13, 2012

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