Monday, November 05, 2007

School Expulsion Upheld for Breaking into School District Computer System

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania upheld the suspension of a student who gained unauthorized access to the school district computer system and supplied information to another student who used the information to access and disrupt the system.

The expulsion was upheld despite the fact that the Computer Use Policy only provided for a possible suspension of one to ten days for violation of the policy.

The Court held that the School Board had discretion as to appropriate penalties in disciplinary proceedings and properly exercised its discretion to expel Student. While the Computer Use Policy suggested penalties up to a 10-day suspension, it also indicated in the Appendix that such a punishment was only to act as a guide, and an individual case could warrant the modification of the listed penalties.

The Court noted that previously, the student had committed a serious and potentially damaging violation of the School District’s Computer Use Policy when he made false student identification cards, and this time he committed a more serious violation of the School District’s Computer Use Policy by decoding encrypted information and helping another student access extremely sensitive and private School District information. Given his history, including a prior suspension for computer misconduct, and given that his conduct is felonious under the Crimes Code, the Court found that the expulsion was entirely appropriate.

Decision: M.T. for A.T. v. Central York School District [PDF]