Explicit, pornographic material lead to police investigation on district iPads


RBHS media specialist, Dennis Murphy, looks at an iPad while it charges. Murphy often reminds students that food and drinks are not allowed, and prohibits computer games played by students. This situation, however, involved much more than innocent computer games.

Grace Vance

Media center specialist Dennis Murphy examines one of the iPads distributed to students. The Columbia Police Department recently seized iPads while investigating improper use of them. 
[dropcap color=”#” bgcolor=”#” sradius=”0″]O[/dropcap]ut of the 12,000 iPads owned by Columbia Public Schools, 27 are currently under investigation by the Columbia Police Department and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.
CPS issue iPads to all fifth and sixth graders, all Battle High School students and all students in advanced placement classes at Hickman High School and here. CPS spokeswomen Michelle Baumstark said there are various reasons behind the confiscation.
“Misuse of a device is not the only reason a district device may be in police custody,” Baumstark said in an email interview. “Other reasons include, but are not limited to, a device being stolen or the user captured content on the device relevant to a separate ongoing police investigation.”

Of these “ongoing investigations,” one of them is a CPD case that began in March involving high school students allegedly using a school-issued iPad to upload explicit images of girls to a third party cloud storage site to share the pictures with others.
In regard to individual iPad investigations, CPD Public Information Officer Latisha Stroer said each case would have to be looked at specifically to determine whether adults or children were involved.
Some cases may not involve the child at all other than they were able to catch video evidence of an adult-on-adult crime on their school-issued device,” Stroer said in an email interview. “Bear in mind, digital device evidence could come into play on all kinds of cases from a simple harassment to a homicide.”
The investigation of the iPads came as a surprise to many students such as sophomore Tamara Holliday who said she uses a school-issued iPad for her AP world class.
“When it comes to technological problem at the schools the authorities don’t usually [investigate] from what I’ve seen,” Holliday said.
Not all of the 30 iPads taken away as evidence under police custody were confiscated this year, notes Baumstark. She said law enforcement investigations “can take some time to complete,” and once the examination is finished, the iPad will be returned to the district.
The CPS technology usage policy states that “Use of technology resources in a disruptive, inappropriate or illegal manner…. may result in temporary, long-term or permanent suspension of user privileges…” according the the CPS policy page.
Because the iPad investigations are the result of a small percentage of CPS students using the devices inappropriately, Baumstark said the school district policy regarding appropriate use of technology will not change.
“The district has a comprehensive technology usage policy, which students and parents must agree to before a device is issued,” Baumstark said. “The district also has a sophisticated filter and monitoring system to deter and inhibit inappropriate use of the devices.”
She believes safety methods to oversee user activity and educating students on internet responsibility will help prevent inappropriate iPad usage in the future.

“Nearly all of our students are making good choices when it comes to appropriate use of technology,” Baumstark said. “We will continue as an organization to put safety mechanisms in place to filter and monitor usage and content. We will also continue to educate our students on appropriate usage.” ”

CPS has attempted to tighten their control over iPad use since they introduced them two years ago. The district internet safety filter and firewall not only protects students from searching inappropriate content on school internet, but this year has also denied students access to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr.
Holliday believes changes such as these actually benefit students who are prone to distraction. In her eyes, efforts to filter student accessibility to social media might help prevent students from sharing explicit content like those of the ongoing investigations.
“I like the idea of banning social media on [iPads] because of the fact that I get easily distracted on mine if I’m doing homework,” Holliday said. “Most social media and the posts that come with it are rather explicit on their own and sometimes provoke that kind of behavior in my opinion So it seems like a good idea to me.”
In light of the current investigations, Baumstark believes CPS internet safety systems and student education is the key to halting inappropriate activity on school-issued iPads and all district devices.
“Providing safety mechanisms is just as important as educating students on making good choices and the power and longevity of the digital footprint they are creating for themselves,” Baumstark said. “Everything you put online is public. Everything you put online is permanent. There is no such thing as anonymous when it comes to technology and social media.”
190 students, representing 10 percent of the RBHS student population, were surveyed about what they used their iPads for most often.
190 students, representing 10 percent of the RBHS student population, were surveyed about what they used their iPads for most often.
infographic by Abby Kempf[vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vc_text_separator title=”Read more coverage of school iPad use” color=”green” border_width=”10″][vc_empty_space][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1476989725908-3e5e5f12-85fd-8″ taxonomies=”1164, 4235″]