Sunday, February 1, 2009

Is this legal? (Laptop Illegally Seized)

Friday, January 30, 2009 my laptop, cell phone, and 7 micro/SD cards were
taken from me.  But from what I’ve gathered from my mother, friends, and other’s the school is at
fault and in violation of the law.  I’m a 17 year old senior and this is my story, of how authority
betrayed me:

It all started months ago.  I can’t remember the precise date, but
it was sometime last semester in my sixth period class (Digital Graphics and Animation).  Our
school (mainly for the digital classes) has folders for every teacher on campus.  These teachers
have both an Assignments folder, and a Dropbox folder where we can retrieve materials we need, and turn
materials in.

Being the total nerd I am, I always navigate to these folders in my digital
classes, and store shortcuts to them on the desktop, so that I don’t have to navigate through my S:\ drive
to find the proper folder.  Since we mainly used Photoshop in Sixth Period, and we were being
taught to use the Adobe File Browser application (the one that shows thumbnails and such), I made another
special shortcut on my desktop that pointed to a location in my N:\ drive (a special networked drive where i
can store my work to access on other computers).  This was something around the equivalent of
N:\Digital Graphics and Animation\ and the shortcut was something like “Storage.lnk”.  Later, I was
re-organizing my student drive, and for the introduction of other folders such as “Fun”, and to keep said
folders from mixing together with my classes, I moved the folder to N:\Classes\Digital Graphics and
Animation\.

Surprisingly, the shortcut on my sixth period computer still worked. 
But this time it pointed to a network location (you geeks know what I’m talking about) something like
“\\KLEINISD\whatever\whatever\whatever\sIDNUMBER\Classes\Digital Graphics and Animation”.  I was
astounded and surprised.  I had never bothered to take a look at the network hierarchy, even though
it would be available simply by looking at “Network Places” or whatever it’s called on Windows XP (I
forget).  So, I did what any self-respecting nerd and white hacker would do.  I took a
gander to see what I could see.

I found things like a list of network printers (what
seemed to be for the whole ISD (Independent School District), I found the directory that housed all the
student’s home folders (what our N:\ drive is), and I found some folder’s containing Microsoft Access files. 
I opened up ones that I had access to as a student user, and looked at what was inside them.  One
contained something that appeared to be tax information for 2005 or something with names of the different
campuses and some other small buildings and what looked like ID numbers, and another file that had what
looked to be teacher names and some sort of certification date.

This was the last of
playing around.  I made a few shortcuts to some of the places that interested me, and stored them
in N:\Fun\.  I soon forgot about my exploring in favor of reading my RSS feeds in Google Reader,
and playing Quake 3 with my friends over the school network.

Months afterwards on Last
Tuesday (I think it was), things changed – much for the worse.  I went to my first period class
like always, PC Maintenance, and typed my username and password into the login box.  What returned
was a message I would never have expected:

size="2">Your account has been disabled.
Please contact your system administrator.


I, being me, ignored this message and just didn’t use the computers in either
my first or seventh period classes for the next two days.  I figured it was the Network Admin
playing with my account again (I’d often logged in to find that, for the rest of the day, Google Reader or
Google Documents had been disabled for me, returning a DNS error on any computer I signed into, but on
nobody else’s account).

I was mistaken.  I learned this on Friday.


I was sitting in my second period class (English 4), reading a bit about Shakespeare’s life, when
one of the assistance principals walked in.  He asked for me, and told me to bring my things. 
I quickly packed up and walked with him towards my associate principal’s office.

There, I
was asked about any files on my computer that I should not have.  I immediately spoke up about
Quake 3, which I had on a few of my SD cards, and told them “Only Quake 3, of which I obtained from the
network” (This is actually complete truth).  They asked about anything else, and I told them that I
didn’t (Well, I didn’t!)

I don’t remember how they referred to them, something about
folders that pointed to places in the network – and I remembered them and admitted to them, after all, I had
done no wrong, I had broken no laws nor the school code.  I told them exactly what I told you, and
they asked me if I copied the files.  I told them that I did not recall copying any files, they
were just boring public information.  What would I do with it?

They wanted to
make sure that I didn’t copy anything.  They asked me if I had a flash drive, I told them that I
used my microSD card for taking files home and to/from computers.  They asked me where it was “In
my phone” “Where is that?” “In my pocket” “Get it out please.”

I reached in my pocket
and pulled out my phone, moving to open up the microSD card hatch and they network administrator told me to
just hand him the phone.  I did as I was told (I didn’t particularly want to, but if you argue or
say no to teachers or the principal, you’re written up for not following directions and are sent to ISS).


He asked me if I used any other devices, and I told him yes.  I used a various number of
other SD cards.  He wanted to know where they were and I told him that they were at my house. 
He told me that someone needed to get them.  They asked about my mother and step-father, and being
who I am, I told them that I didn’t want to disrupt them from their work.  My mother was knee-deep
in taxes, and my step-father would be out wiring someone’s house.  They said they needed to take a
look at the cards.  I asked them if they needed to see my laptop as well and they responded that
they did.  I told them that since I didn’t want to bother my parents, I would be willing to have a
police or otherwise escort to my house to pick up the materials to show them.

They said
they’d see if it was available, and after having me write a legal statement about what I could remember
(they said it was entirely optional, but that it would help clear me), I signed it, and they notarized it. 
It detailed exactly how I found the security hole, and the kind of information I looked at.  I
excluded anything that was hazy (such as pointing out the information to Zach [i still don’t know if I did
or not]), etc.

I waited for over two periods as they talked, or did other administrative
tasks, at one point apparently calling my mother and telling her that I was going to be put in ISS for the
day, and to have her okay to “drive me to the house and pick up my laptop”.

We went in my
assistant principal’s new truck (it was nice, he could start it with just the remote) and we drove to my
house that wasn’t so very far away.  I picked up six SD cards (from my Wii, from my DS, from the
floor, my laptop, my windowsill and a drawer), shutdown and unplugged my laptop, bringing them (the cards)
as well as my laptop and plug with me intro the truck, before we headed back to the school.

He
told me to leave the things (my laptop and SD cards) on the table of his office [the associate principal]
and then let me know that as per protocol, I was to be put in ISS until this was resolved.  I asked
him about getting my things back, and he said he didn’t know but to come back at 2:10 and he’d see what he
could do.  I asked him if the ISS person would let me, and he said something about telling them and
that he would.

It was fifth period as I walked towards ISS, dreading the fact that I had
to be in it for the remainder of the day.  He had asked me what lunch I normally had, and if I
would like to get lunch from the cafeteria – i told him that i normally didn’t eat, and that I didn’t have
money anyway, so off I went to ISS.

I walked into the room, and sat in the seat assigned
to me.  Being given a very long piece of paper with the rules.  I was to copy the sheet
word for word, legibly, with proper spelling.  I knew this, I’d done it before last year when I’d
gotten in actual trouble for using the command prompt to “net send” (geeks know what I’m talking about)
messages through the network.

I finished the sheet and turned in it, waiting hopefully
for work from one or more of my teacher’s to do (as I had no homework, or anything from any of my classes
considering i was taken out of my second period).

Nothing was ever delivered for me to
do, so I read a few chapters (past those assigned the previous day) of Huckleberry Finn (as we had to read
it for English III anyway), before getting bored with the southern drawl of Huck.

I sat
there, for the remainder of fifth, for sixth (we had a fire drill too), and for seventh, never knowing what
time it is (I had no watch, we weren’t allowed to look at it on phones if we had one, and there was no clock
on the walls of the room)

Nobody told me it was 2:10, I had no way to know.  I
didn’t have any idea how late it was until the person in charge said to us “Okay, pack up.  The
bell’s about to ring.”  A few seconds later, the bell went off.  I picked up my bag, was
the first to walk out the door, and walked as quickly as I could possibly in my geta to his office. 
He was out at the busses.  I said that I could walk home if need be, and I waited for him.


He came in, we talked – I wasn’t leaving without my things back, especially if they were in the
Principal’s office.

He asked if I wanted my mother there, I did.  He called her,
she got upset after talking to me, she came down, she talked to the Principal (i don’t know what about, the
secretary said she thought that he wanted to talk to her alone, so I waited).  She said that he had
said that they had been taken to Central Office.  She had a note with the name and number of the
Superintendent over our school.  We drove down there as fast as the law would let us, and waited
for her to get out of a meeting.

We spoke with her, she said things like “They’re not
here.” “We don’t have that information” “The soonest I can get back to you is on Monday” “I’ll update you”. 
She didn’t get the message that my mother kept saying.  I needed the laptop for my work, for my
life.  It had my code on it, it had files with my own copywritten work.  She wouldn’t
listen.

We walked out of her office and into the next one, we asked to see the
super-intendent.  No, we don’t have an appointment.  Mom threatened to walk into offices
until she found someone that could help us.  The lady came out to see us, we told her the basics,
she told us she’d find out what she could, and mom told her that maybe she should talk with the lady that we
had just talked to.

She told us to wait in the lobby, and she’d find out what she could.


Ten minutes later, a “Klein ISD Police Officer” walked through the door.

Ten
more minutes later, she approached us with him.  Telling us that the lady before had informed us
that it wasn’t there, and that we could be updated on Monday.  We told her that they were in
violation of the law.  She said that the discussion was over.  The officer said that if we
did not leave, that we would be arrested for trespassing (Can you trespass on public property?). 
We were escorted out, and as we got in our vehicle, two additional “Klein ISD Police” vehicles drove up to
the building, and we left.

Do schools have government authority?  If so, this is
illegal search and seizure.

If not, they’ve stolen from me.

I don’t
know what to do now.  I’m typing on an older computer that I recently installed Windows 7 on for
beta testing.  If I had any homework like an essay or something, I wouldn’t be able to type it. 
I can barely watch a Youtube video, not even to mention all the anime I was downloading onto my computer
Thursday Night and Friday Morning, Even typing is slow on this thing.  I can’t work with any of my
code (It’s all on my laptop), I can’t apply for any scholarships, I don’t even have any of my music to
listen to.

The only reason I’ve been able to text is because I still have my older Virgin
Mobile phone, of which I’ve reactivated just for this occasion.

This school has violated
mine and my mother’s cival rights, and has stolen my job and my life from me.

If anybody
can help, please, give me advice on what to do, or help however you can.

I attend href="http://kleincollins.kleinisd.net/" rel="nofollow">Klein Collins High School of the href="http://www.kleinisd.net/" rel="nofollow">Klein ISD in Texas.

Please
digg my story: rel="nofollow">http://digg.com/security/Laptop_Illegally_Seized_from_Senior_in_Texas


Updates:

  • href="http://tech.gtaero.net/2009/02/is-this-illegal-monday-after.html">The Monday After