Student’s crime shouldn’t end in jail

Attention everyone who has ever changed a grade on a class assignment, progress report or report card. According to Florida state law, you are guilty of an offense against intellectual property, a second-degree felony. This applies even if you were only in middle school when the “crime” occurred.

An 11-year-old sixth-grader used his teacher’s computer and changed the grades on five of his reading assignments. The boy later was arrested and charged with fraud. If convicted he could serve time in a juvenile detention center.

Law enforcement officials argue that the boy knowingly modified data in the computer with the purpose of defrauding someone. The school district lists such an act as one of the most serious infractions a student can commit, punishable by a 10-day suspension and a recommendation of expulsion. Both parties agree that the boy’s punishment should serve as an example to deter other students from trying the same thing.

This obviously is a victimless crime. Intellectual property laws are designed to protect individuals and their original works. A junior high reading assignment, or the teacher’s grade on that assignment, hardly qualifies for such protection.

The law has provisions to protect people who do not understand the consequences of their actions. The boy probably was trying to avoid punishment at home, and now he is facing jail time for a crime that he cannot possibly understand. This is not justice.

The “crime” happened on school grounds and school officials, not the court system, should hand out the punishment. Sending an 11-year-old boy to a juvenile detention center will not serve as an example to other students. Instead, it will place a young boy in an environment with real criminals.

University Wire — Baylor University