Students photograph themselves with an iPad during a class at Broadacres Elementary School in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Bob Chamberlin, File)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their Los Angeles high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the Web and access social media sites, prompting district officials to halt a $1 billion program aimed at putting the devices in the hands of every student in the nation’s second-largest school system.
Roosevelt High was among the first schools to distribute iPads as part of the Los Angeles Unified School District rollout. Its students initially were allowed to take home the Apple tablets, and they learned they could easily delete their personal profile information, giving them greater access to the iPads’ capabilities, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The district has halted home use of the tablets until further notice and put the rollout on hold as officials look for ways to make sure students use the devices for school work only. Its actions come as school officials nationwide grapple with security measures for iPads and other devices as they introduce them to an often highly tech-savvy student population.
Two other LA schools also reported the breaches, though in smaller numbers.
“I’m guessing this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices,” School District Police Chief Steven Zipperman wrote in a confidential memo to senior staff obtained by the Times. “I want to prevent a ‘runaway train’ scenario when we may have the ability to put a hold on the rollout.”
When the technology breaches came to light Tuesday, Superintendent John Deasy ordered a moratorium on allowing tablets to leave campus until the problem has been resolved,” the district said in statement.
Roosevelt students began to tinker with the security software on the devices after “they took them home and they can’t do anything with them,” senior Alfredo Garcia told the Los Angeles Times.
Before long students were on the Internet, sending tweets, socializing on Facebook and streaming music through Pandora, students told the newspaper.
The district said in a statement Wednesday that steps have been taken “to ensure it has 100 percent control over what is accessible” on the devices.
Potential precautions include permanently barring home use of the tablets and strengthening the security software that limits how the devices are used.
Zipperman suggested in the memo to senior staff that the district might want to delay distribution of the iPads.
When the technology breaches came to light Tuesday, Superintendent John Deasy “ordered a moratorium on allowing tablets to leave campus” until the problem has been resolved,” the district statement said.