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Teen’s computer-privacy tussle with his Wayzata school goes viral

Ringo was uncomfortable with language in the contract he was required to sign in order to receive an iPad from Wayzata High School.

Right before the holidays, a Twin Cities teen by the name of Nathan Ringo authored a first-person account of an ongoing digital privacy tussle with his school that was published in the popular online magazine BoingBoing.

Co-edited by writer and prominent copyright reform advocate Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing is a pretty big deal. In a very few minutes, Ringo went viral in a particular international community.

The school district administrators he left in the hot seat? It’s not hard to imagine that it’s something of a relief that student privacy laws prevent them from discussing Ringo’s claims. The young man has quite clearly received an excellent education.

Ringo’s story neatly illustrates a raging national debate about the implications — ranging from commercial retention and use of student data to overreach in censorship — of increased use of technology in the classroom.

Ringo’s BoingBoing commentary was especially pertinent because of a case in the news at the time concerning tablets distributed by a Pennsylvania school district. The cameras in the devices were turned on remotely, capturing female students undressing.

In the fall, Ringo reported to Wayzata High School to start his junior year. Eleventh-graders showed up on the third of four “back-to-business days” to have their photos taken for IDs and to pick up their schedules and — new this year — an iPad.

Only one actually reading the contract

Nathan Ringo

Standing in line to get his tablet, Ringo began to actually read the contract he would be asked to sign before he received the device. Finding clauses in which he would relinquish any right to privacy — and for no circumstantial justification he could discern — he began reading the contract out loud.

“I was the only person reading it and I just realized, Hey, we’re supposed to have the right to privacy,” Ringo recalls. “Under the [U.S.] Supreme Court case Katz vs. United States, which we actually learned about in school, in civics and government — we just call it civics.”

In the 1967 decision, the jurists held that the government could not use evidence obtained from the warrantless wiretapping of a public phone booth.

“That court case gave citizens the right to privacy,” Ringo explains. “And then the school is asking us like two years after we are learning about this in class and being tested on it to give away that right.”

And that was just for starters.

Clause ‘was broad and really ambiguous’

“That privacy clause,” Ringo continues, “it was broad and really ambiguous. Like on the [Internet] filter, it had a clause on the filter that was worded ‘should block obscene and objectionable things.’ Objectionable according to who?”

“Objectionable is hugely subjective,” he adds, reeling off examples. “Something that’s objectionable to me could be humorous to someone else, and vice versa.”

After signing the contract, students were being ushered into a room where they would view a video on setting up their iPads. That would be followed by a visit to another room where teachers and students would supply tech help.

Here, too, Ringo was taking note of problems.

“In a couple of instances students didn’t have iTunes accounts and needed to make them,” he says. “iTunes requires a credit card. Not too many students carry a credit card with them at all times. If your parents weren’t there and you didn’t have your own credit card you were just stuck at that step, basically.”

Had challenged Internet filters at school

Having challenged the school’s Internet filters the year before, Ringo already had a reputation for being a digital agitator. In that instance, he says he was trying to show that there was a much smarter way to monitor student surfing than the overbroad and often arbitrary filtering system in use.

The arrival of the iPads opened the door to a whole new realm of problems. Not only would students have to agree to waive rights in school, they would have to agree to an impenetrable series of conditions and licensing arrangements imposed by Apple.

At the same time, Los Angeles schools’ 2-year-old, $1.3 billion plan to provide all of its students with iPads loaded with software from the testing concern Pearson has unleashed a tsunami of controversy, including an FBI investigation into the underlying dealings.

Few people understand the thorny web as well as Ringo, and fewer still have crafted solutions. Minnesota was not among the 22 states to attempt to legislate the issues last year. Congress has made even less progress and appears on the verge of accepting a controversial proposal that the industry police itself.

As Ringo read the contract to his classmates in Wayzata, an administrator pulled him aside.

“She’s like basically saying, ‘So if you don’t have anything to hide on your iPad why do you care if you have the right to privacy or not?’ ” he recalls. “There’s the implication that if you want the right to privacy you’re obviously a criminal.”

He didn’t get far with that argument: “I was asked to leave the building, and I did.”

Internet privileges revoked

A couple of days later, Ringo says he got an e-mail from the district’s tech department revoking his Internet privileges for “hacker talk.” His school account was closed.

Which was no trivial matter, given that the school’s curriculum was structured so that without access to a tablet and the Internet a student would be shut out of a lot of in-class activities, homework and other things necessary to keep up academically.

To Ringo’s way of thinking, this made the supposedly voluntary privacy waiver in the iPad contract coercive. And it left him only with options that also left him afoul of district policy.

To wit: Bringing his own tablet and, because his Internet account had been disabled, a smartphone with an Internet hotspot, something he says is forbidden by school board policy.

Digital limbo for months

Ringo says he’s been operating in this digital limbo all year, and continuing to research the underlying issues. The least of them is what his conundrum would look like in someplace unlike Wayzata, where families didn’t have Visa cards and their own technology.

Broadly stated, his larger concerns fall into two realms. The first is that there is nothing in the documentation he refused to sign and that he can find that says what information the district and its vendors are allowed to gather, why and under what circumstances they can retain and use it.

“They don’t actually have anything that says what they are gathering, which is actually more troubling,” Ringo says. “Because they can gather anything but they don’t say what they actually have gathered.”

There are limits on student privacy and free speech in the school setting, but Ringo argues that the contract he was asked to sign far exceeds what courts have allowed to date.

Lockers and iPads

“The school’s right to search your locker involves, like, there needs to be reasonable cause to search our locker, reasonable suspicion,” he says. “Like if a drug-sniffing dog smells something suspicious they are allowed to open our locker.

“They couldn’t just get a master key and go opening and searching every locker. That would be pretty illegal. It should be the same way with the iPad, but according to what we all signed it isn’t.”

Another case in point is his disabled Gmail account, he says. One of the selling points of the Google platform is that administrators can easily dip in and out of users’ accounts.

“The student never needs to be notified even if it was a frivolous reason,” explains Ringo. “They have logged access to websites and libraries, which is less objectionable. They can and have taken remote access from their computers.”

As they did when he objected to the district’s Internet filters. He attempted to show his elders that there was a less ham-fisted way of complying with federal regulations that effectively require schools to prohibit access to pornography.

“How all Internet filters work is there is some sort of mechanism that takes in text and says, ‘Yes, this is objectionable,’ or, ‘No, it’s not,’ ” Ringo explains. “So how the filter works is for every single web page you’re trying to go to it takes the text in or that you’re trying to send to see if there’s anything objectionable. If there’s not, it will go through. If not, it will block it.”

The commercial filters used by many school districts are notoriously crude, filtering out anything with a mere whiff of impropriety, including things like breast cancer information and sites for gay and lesbian youth.

Among the “bad Internet policy decisions” Wayzata’s filtering technology spawned, Ringo wrote for BoingBoing: “The blocking of YouTube and Vimeo, rate-limiting on downloads and an exponentially expanding list of addresses that are deemed to be too horrifying for students to view, such as XKCD, Wikipedia, news websites and anywhere else that, somewhere, contains a naughty word.”

HTTPS: More like a scalpel

There’s a relatively simple fix, he says: HTTPS, a technology that is used, among other things, to facilitate secure transactions. Incomprehensible to people without Ringo’s technological savvy, the bottom line is it would operate more like a scalpel and less like a baseball bat.

Ringo was looking into this in programming class when he discovered the IT department was monitoring him: “I was confronted with pictures of it that were taken by the computer itself and basically told I need to stop doing this because it’s eerie in some way because we don’t know what it is.”

Federal law prevents Wayzata administrators from commenting on Ringo’s assertions. But in response to a request for comment the district did provide a description of its filtering activities:

“Internet safety for all students and responsible use of technology is a top priority in the Wayzata Public Schools. For organizations that offer Internet access like schools or libraries, the Child Internet Protection Act mandates the implementation of a web filtering solution or a loss of Federal E-rate funding. The Child Internet Protection Act requires that all U.S. schools have appropriate measures in place to protect students from obscene or harmful online content. In order to be in compliance, Wayzata Public Schools has implemented a web security solution from iBoss.

“School Board policies are in place that establish guidelines for the content students have access to on the Internet. As a school district, it is our job to provide appropriate content to support the educational needs of our students. We have a process in place to adjust the filter when necessary to fulfill our students’ learning needs. Because of the Child Internet Protection Act requirements, we are constantly trying to balance these needs.”

Admiration from adults, but …

Ringo says he has been operating in a kind of policy no-man’s-land since back-to-business week, free of Wayzata’s Internet privacy rules but afoul of the policy on student hotspots. Some of the adults in his school have confided that they admire his pluck and agree with his stance, but no one seems to know what to do with him.

They’re entitled to bragging rights. Ringo taught himself programming working with Lego Mindstorms in the district’s gifted and talented program. He learned enough there to write code in DOS batch on an abandoned family laptop.

School administrators have asked the junior to come up with a paper stating the issues and proposing solutions. He’s taking the request seriously, and given the global digital-rights platform he’s acquired, there’s reason to think it’s only the first time Ringo will get to remind his elders what they taught him.

Comments (34)

  1. Submitted by sue salmela on 01/05/2015 - 12:14 pm.

    Nathan Ringo

    My hat’s off to Nathan. Over the years dealingI have dealt with high school administrators and it left me extremely frustrated.

    Hopefully you will be done with high school soon and can move onto a more intellectual realm – there is hope!

    In the meantime, keep questioning…everything!

  2. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 01/05/2015 - 01:39 pm.

    Nicely done

    I was especially impressed with the school’s choice of retribution against this young man – very classy.

  3. Submitted by Marc Post on 01/05/2015 - 03:30 pm.

    Ringo is wrong on several accounts.

    First, iTunes does NOT require a credit card.

    Next, HTTPS is NOT a simple solution. HTTPS is encryption technology and it’s a tool used by students to bypass mandated internet filters. If Ringo understood that, he’d know it was no solution at all.

    Ringo also doesn’t seem to grasp who is paying for all this. The network, computers and iPads are paid for by tax payers. He has no right to it. There are rules for riding the bus too. If you don’t follow them, you ride a ‘special’ bus. If he doesn’t like it, he can open enroll at a district that has a policy that meets his needs. I doubt he’ll find one.

    The restrictions and agreements are required by law. This has all been run thru the courts. Ringo doesn’t seem to know that either.

    • Submitted by Dan Bosch on 01/05/2015 - 09:04 pm.

      He was also partially wrong about lockers

      Here is part of the policy from my kid’s school district concerning lockers:
      “Pursuant to Minnesota statutes, school lockers are the property of the school district. At no time does the school district relinquish its exclusive control of lockers provided for the convenience of students. Inspection of the interior of lockers may be conducted by school officials for any reason at any time, without notice, without student consent, and without a search warrant. The personal possessions of students within a school locker may be searched only when school officials have a reasonable suspicion that the search will uncover evidence of a violation of law or school rules. As soon as practicable after the search of a student’s personal possessions, the school officials must provide notice of the search to students whose lockers were searched unless disclosure would impede an ongoing investigation by police or school officials.”

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 01/06/2015 - 07:30 am.

      Post is wrong

      Setting aside any discussion on iTunes and HTTPS, if the restrictions and agreements are required by law then why have students sign anything. Its’ already in the law ? Because a student giving up his privacy, to the extent described here, is not in the law.

      • Submitted by Marc Post on 01/06/2015 - 10:16 am.


        The agreements are voluntary. If a student doesn’t agree, then there are alternatives as I state in a post below. Student’s don’t have to agree.

    • Submitted by Geoff Mason on 01/08/2015 - 09:59 am.

      Quite right

      I cannot speak to iTunes and credit cards as I never use that awful product. But Marc is right on the remaining points.

      Where I differ is on what I see as the core issues. The School has made the decision that it is going to have core curriculum delivered via a technical interface. As a result of Ringo’s vocal challenges, which do not appear to be criminal in nature, they have taken away his access to that technical interface and presumably to course content. He is entitled to a content based education. The school is required to provide him access to that content.

      This is what happens when schools try to implement technology without thoroughly examining the implications of that tech. I’ve seen this over and over again as districts try to distribute iPads and other devices, the policy makers are just not up to the challenge.

      In St Paul, the users are only restricted while on the schools network, they cando nearly anything they want when they are at home or another network. The school will try to detect improper use when they reconnect but it is not hard to erase your tracks.

      Eden Prairie initially devolved the responsibility to the parents who might otherwise have simply denied kids internet access, had their own monitoring tools or simply directly monitored their kids usage.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/05/2015 - 05:42 pm.

    This is what happens

    when policies are set and policed by people (school administrators) who are neither familiar nor comfortable with current technology.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/05/2015 - 07:14 pm.

    Rights do not

    …disappear behind the schoolhouse door. Mr. Post is correct that the equipment and network are being paid for by taxpayers. That doesn’t negate Nathan Ringo’s right to at least a modicum of privacy. Moreover, since it seems apparent that Nathan is willing and capable of providing his own iPad, the district’s refusal to allow him to use school “hot spots” for wireless access to the web for his own equipment verges on the temper tantrum of a 3-year-old. My grandson is 3, and I’m familiar with that syndrome as both grandfather and retired teacher.

    I’ll add that Mr. Post’s comment about going to another school in another district misses the point. It’s hardly equitable for what purports to be a “public” school to require a student to attend school elsewhere over an issue involving access to technology, and especially given Mr. Post’s final sentence in that paragraph. If it’s true that Nathan isn’t likely to find a more privacy-oriented district, it boils down to a case of “my way or the highway,” which flies in the face of the rationale for public schools in the first place.

    I’d like to see some of the cases that established the precedents Post implies we should all know about. He may be correct, but his comment provides no evidence, and there’s nothing in Beth’s column to supplement his viewpoint. Maybe a follow-up column is in order after some further time has elapsed.

    On the whole, and given my own experience in a school district at what might be regarded in some circles as the dawn of the technological era, I think Paul Brandon has come pretty close to nailing it. Most school administrators, and especially those at the upper echelons, have limited understanding of computer networks and technology, and rely on the generalities provided to them by the district’s IT staff.

    • Submitted by Marc Post on 01/06/2015 - 08:09 am.

      I disagree

      When does anyone have the right to privacy when using someone else’s (especially publicly taxpayer funded) technology, equipment and buildings? Even locker searches are legal. The iPad and network are for educational purposes only, not the student’s personal or private use. The student is being asked to agree to the terms of use in exchange for the use of district facilities.

      If the student chooses not to agree, the district is still required to provide an education under FERPA. The student is not required to leave. If the student doesn’t like that, then open enrolling, enrolling in a private school or home schooling are all choices they can make and are not unreasonable. It’s done all the time for lesser reasons. If the student will not agree to use the school’s facilities for educational purposes, then it is the student’s (or family’s) choice to change to a facility that will allow the student to use their facilities, technology and equipment for the student’s private use. Public schools are not obligated to do that.

      While I admit I don’t cite legal precedent for challenges to the federal Child Internet Protection Act law, the point is mote. The law stands. Public schools are required to abide by it. I am unaware of any legal challenges based on a student’s right to privacy. It has been challenged based on free speech and upheld by SCOTUS. For more information, here’s the Wikipedia link:

      It’s easy to rail on school administrators, but they are only following the law. Listening to their IT staff is what they should be doing.

  6. Submitted by Dan Berg on 01/06/2015 - 07:30 am.

    The problem isn’t privacy

    We don’t have a “right to privacy”. What we have at its core is a right to against unreasonable search and seizure in your personal property and information in regards to government activities. This does not extend in to anything that happens in public or to information legally obtained by private entities.

    While I very much admire the students desire to point out the ridiculousness of the school policy and their inability to understand or manage their own policies he misses, I believe, the true target he should be shooting for. Since neither the network he is using or the iPad are his (they are publicly owned) he can not maintain he has ownership rights which he can protect under the umbrella of privacy. On top of that there is no reason Mr. Ringo needs to use the equipment or network for any reason than those specified by the school providing them. Just because an iPad can be programed to send email to his friends and family or surf the web to check football scores doesn’t mean it is being provided for those reasons.

    There are two points he should be complaining about, the internet filters at the school and the fact that the school doesn’t allow individually owned phones or tablets to be used. The internet filters are easily defeat-able (especially given the difference in ability between the schools IT and the students) and their effect arbitrary. Being allowed to use your own devise would be the only way to provide some distance between his personal information and communication and the school’s authorities.

    To those that feel the school has a compelling reason to not allow personal devises or that they need internet filters should realize something. Whatever reasons they might be are the same reasons the schools use for not allowing unmonitored communication or usage on publicly owned devices.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 01/06/2015 - 10:31 am.


      Public property is, by definition, not private. Public networks supplied by public property (wireless routers) also isn’t private (in fact, it’s a poor assumption that anything connected to the internet is private). It’s the digital version of shouting from the rooftops and claiming that no one should have been listening. Like it or not, that the kid is being prevented from doing school work is his own fault. That being said, as another has said, why does this (under 18 year old) have to sign a contract if the law already requires compliance? Is it a contract or is it a notice? If it’s a contract, I’m not sure how binding it is (of course, I’m not a lawyer, so what do I know).

      Privacy ends at your property, including your own body. It does not extend to public property and public statements. The iPads are public property for school use only, and so have no business being used for any other (private) reason.

      Now, there may still be some issues. For example, what information is a student required to provide in order to use the iPads? Are they compelled to provide information that isn’t necessary for use of the iPad. For example, I can understand that the school might need an identifier (such as social security) in order to keep track of who has which iPad. However, there is no need to enter such information on the iPad or use that information for any other reason. Nor should any student be required to enter a payment method in order to use a device required for a public education.

  7. Submitted by Jim Boulay on 01/06/2015 - 07:58 am.

    no right to free speech either!

    i’m sure this is covered under the patriot act because none of us has any privacy anymore! Remember the “BONG HITS FOR JESUS!” court case? The supreme court ruled that the student didn’t even have the right to free speech outside of school on a public street! While I sympathize with Ringo I would rather the privacy advocates push for more consumer privacy and stop the retailers, double click online ads and credit card info gathering of my personal info and data and then “selling” my info to other groups that want to reach me even though I’m not interested in their products or causes!

  8. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/06/2015 - 11:19 am.

    An underlying question

    is whether (and to what extent) minors have Constitutional rights.

  9. Submitted by Eric Andersen on 01/06/2015 - 02:31 pm.

    Public property? No privacy.

    It is not “his” IPad, it is not “his” email account, it is not “his” locker. All are owned by the school district which is allowing him to use them if he follows their rules. I would like to have this kid in class. He could say that the other students in “his” classroom are invading his privacy. Class size = 1.

  10. Submitted by Michael Hess on 01/06/2015 - 03:29 pm.

    Privacy Policy is the Problem

    People are focusing on a very narrow area of data collection. Yes the district could track where on the web the IPAD went an as a public eductional tool that doesn’t seem unreasonable. But what if it’s reporting how long students spend studying in different subjects? or what time of day they study? or where the tablet GPS says they were? What if you go in for a parent teacher conference and they give you a report that your student is in the bottom 10th percentile for out of class ipad study time? or they disapprove of your student staying up so late each night? What if the teacher notes that several tablets were in the same location one night before the big test or paper was due and accuse some students of cheating? Without a bound on what data can be collected these are entirely feasible technically even if they sound far fetched. Some bounds in the agreement of what data can be collected is needed. In the current environment of increased sensitivity to data privacy these are the scenarios to talk about, not if the tablet is logging personal web sites visited.

  11. Submitted by Christopher Williams on 01/07/2015 - 10:14 am.

    First off this “Ringo” doesn’t sound like a tech expert at all. Maybe instead of taking a high school kid who’s taking a high school programming class at his word, maybe an IT expert should have been consulted.

    iTunes doesn’t require a credit card. Think about this, even if you know NOTHING of IT. iPads are deployed in schools nationwide. If every student nationwide receiving one of these needed a credit card to upgrade 1) We all would have heard of this by now, and 2) It would have been a colossally stupid decision by Apple – how many teens have credit cards? Ringo doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    HTTPS encrypts web traffic, making it difficult to impossible for filters or proxies to read the traffic in transit, but since the proxy is the connection to the network, the just substitute their own cert and int’s unencrypted and they can still filter. This would not solve the problem. The way a proxy works is, the iPad talks to the proxy – the proxy goes out to the internet and retrieves the page. The way HTTPS traffic is handled still has the proxy as a man-in-the-middle and can still read and filter. He may have meant ‘VPN’ which would indeed solve the issue – if the school isn’t blocking that functionality (normally they would – all businesses using filters do this so you can’t bypass them), but it was either misreported, misquoted, or more likely – Ringo doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    All of this is required to one extent or another by federal law and or state law via COPA (Children’s Online PRotection Act). Go pester congress if you don’t like it. Ringo doesn’t seem to know about this either.

    And this is all taxpayer property using taxpayer paid for software, servers, and bandwidth. Please – use this for schoolwork and use your own gear for browsing “questionable” sites the school is blocking. Is it really a shock they expect you to use school resources for school work? No one is taking away your ability to use your own gear for your own purposes. Maybe Ringo should research this too.

    Seriously, your geeky high school computer wiz might sound smart to a non-techie and to his parents, but to someone in the biz he’s an amateur who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  12. Submitted by Christopher Williams on 01/07/2015 - 10:43 am.

    MinnPost Journalism

    I just want to respectfully point out, that MinnPost really should reclassify this as an opinion article, to be honest and true journalists.

    Everything technical in this article is wrong. If you remove that, you’re left with a typical school argument over student privacy vs the adminsitration that goes back decades to locker searches. It’s an interesting conversation to have, but when you mix in erroneous technical data you obscure the argument.

    For example, the whole paragraph about HTTPS is wrong. This is not a scalpel vs baseball bat. Let me try to explain, how this ENTIRE SECTION of the article is wrong.

    Normally, HTTPS is a way to secure web traffic. When you log in to your online banking for example, this functionality is used. Keys are exchanged between the browser and the site. This “locks” or encrypts the traffic. It can only be read by the people holding the keys. If anyone else intercepts the data, they just get gobblygook that is meaningless jumbled data. Aha! Says the article, and Nathan Ringo – if they’d only use HTTPS we’d be safe! This sounds right after all, but this is not correct.

    The school and corporate webfilters provided by companies like Nokia and Bluecoat operate in a “managed device” environment. Let me explain. The school administrators install certificates of authority on the iPads. Basically, That tells them who is trustworthy and who is not. In a managed environment, this basically tells the iPad to trust the web filter. When a connection is made to a web page – even over HTTPS – the browser connects to the filter, which it trusts via the installed certificate, then the filter connects to the website and retrieves the information. The filter is a “man in the middle”. Because the device is in a managed mode, it trusts the filter as a certificate authority and allows the filter to decrypt and filter the traffic”

    That all sounds complicated I know. But the bottom line is, the actual functionality of the filter takes into account all these little tricks Nathan Ringo is trying to suggest to bypass it. Believe me, computer security experts have though of all the tricks a high school kid is going to come up with. Natahan could even confirm this for himself. Because his device is “un-managed” he will not have the local school certificates installed. If he connected to his school proxy via that Surface Pro he’s got and requested a HTTPS page, he’d immediately get a certificate mismatch error – because his device is not configured or managed to blindly trust the filter. His browser would be expecting the site’s certificate but instead be receiving the filter’s certificate.

    If you want to debate the basic “locker searches” privacy issues, then fine. If you want to debate whether or not kids internet access should be filter. That’s fair game too. If you want to debate what kind of restrictions we should put on taxpayer funded supplied for students, great, have at it.

    But seriously, as a journalist, you shouldn’t report false technical information from a source like a high school kid without running it by an IT security expert first. It’s just irresponsible and puts false data out there, making you less trustworthy.

    • Submitted by Marc Post on 01/07/2015 - 04:23 pm.

      Spot on

      Good posts, Chris. Just a little fact checking would have shown how obviously wrong Ringo is on so many points. The misinformation helps nothing.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/07/2015 - 01:51 pm.

    Two things…

    First, he had to leave the building because he was reading the contract out loud? This is thugary pure and simple. Access to education is actually a constitutional right in MN. School administrators seem to think they can just kick kids out of school for whatever lame reason they can come up with. That’s gotta stop. In this case someone was apparently frustrated by the fact that they couldn’t win an argument with a teenager.

    Second, a lot of people seem to missing the point entirely. The problem with monitoring online behavior for “questionable” or “objectionable” content without clear guidelines is that it leaves students open to arbitrary enforcement and punishment, there are no due process procedures in place here. Furthermore, when the class instruction itself REQUIRES this equipment, the notion of voluntary participation is incoherent, especially if you’re banning alternatives. The problem isn’t that a student wants to do something they shouldn’t do with the equipment, the problem is they may find themselves being persecuted for doing something completely innocent. For instance as near as I can tell, Wayzata cut this kids e-mail account simply because he read a contract. He wasn’t doing anything inappropriate with his e-mail, yet they blocked it. And you wonder why this kid might not trust this system to use the data it’s collecting appropriately?

    The problem here doesn’t hinge on who owns the iPads, the problem is that those iPads are the only access students have to the curriculum… a curriculum they have a constitutional right to access.

    It’s true the school can do what it wants with it’s network, but if questionable and objectionable stuff is being blocked by the server, it doesn’t matter what device is being used to connect to that server. So why can’t Ringo connect with his own device? Why does he need his hot spot? It looks like the system is designed specifically to deny student’s privacy, lack of privacy isn’t simply a feature of the system.

    It’s not about education it’s about behavioral control. Schools have a right and obligation to provide some behavior controls to the extent that they provide safe and effective environments for learning, but we have a kid here who’s done absolutely nothing wrong, or threatening, or disruptive, and he’s locked out of the system. THAT’S not about education or even protecting the educational environment.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 01/08/2015 - 11:04 am.


      Considering how wrong this kid is on everything else, and thus so is this article, I also question WHY he had to leave the building. I suspect that it’s something other than simply reading the contract out loud.

      As for this poor child not having access to public school, I call BS. For the same reason he doesn’t get to go to school and take his world history from the Bible while everyone else takes it from a text book and get the same grade, he doesn’t get to pick how he accesses the other information the school teaches. It’s not about privacy or access to school. He has as much privacy as he has a right to in view of the public iPad, and he has as much access to education as he has a right to.

      The system is simply designed to provide kids with a digital tool to learn to use, which is fast becoming a necessity. Not only that, but digital books tend to be cheaper, easier to inventory, and easier to update. Of course the system isn’t designed for privacy, that’s not its purpose! Why in the world should this kid have access to the network on a device that isn’t relatively controlled? So he can hack the school server or introduce malware? And even if he doesn’t mean, or even commit, harm to the school server, what if he downloads malware to his own device via the school network? Who’s responsible for his personal iPad being bricked? You would think his, but I can imagine that he could make an argument that it’s not. After all, he’s made this into a privacy issue when it absolutely is not, and it’s been picked up by the “media.” The kid knows just enough to be dangerous and make mountains out of nothing.

      So…the biggest question, really, is why iPads????

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/08/2015 - 12:51 pm.

        Not very considerate

        “Considering how wrong this kid is on everything else, and thus so is this article, I also question WHY he had to leave the building. I suspect that it’s something other than simply reading the contract out loud.”

        This is just ad hominem attack on a teenager. Where are the adults here?

        You’re comparison with the Bible is off course. A bible would be an attempt to substitute his own curriculum for the schools, not access the school’s curriculum. He’s not objecting to what the school is teaching, he’s arguing that he shouldn’t have surrender certain civil rights in order to access what the school is teaching. And you’re absolutely right, he DOESN’T get to pick how he accesses the curriculum, THAT’S the problem. It has everything to do with privacy and rights if you’re telling him he has to surrender his rights in order to access class material. Frankly, that’s probably why he’s being allowed to use his hot spot. I suspect council has explained to the school that they can’t completely block access to course material because he actually has a right to access that material. If he doesn’t want to consent to some contract they have to accommodate that because this isn’t extracurricular. Remember, an enforceable contract with a minor is a dicey proposition anyways, that may be one reason why they can’t actually MAKE him sign the contract. Nor can they make his access to public education contingent on his parents signing a contract.

        Another problem the school may have is that while they are required to provide Ringo access to course material, they’re also required to do so for the same price as they do other students. In other words they can’t make Ringo pay more than other students for his public education, and that’s what he’s doing as long as he’s using his own hot spot instead the school’s network. What they’re doing at this point is essentially discriminatory. Ringo is accessing the same course material as the other students, but he’s paying more to do so. Unless Ringo is an out of district student or something they can’t make him pay more for his public education.

        I agree, why iPads? That actually points towards another related problem, and this has been a sore spot in our educational system for years. This looks more like indoctrination to Apple products than education doesn’t it? In fact the whole process looks more than a little like indoctrination. Frankly, the schools behavior here looks like bullying to me, which is a little ironic when you think about it.

        • Submitted by Marc Post on 01/09/2015 - 10:31 am.

          A few corrections

          First, pointing out where Ringo is factually wrong is not a personal attack. It speaks to his credibility and the accuracy of the post generally. Your implication that commenters are not being adults is simply insulting and a bit hypocritical in my opinion.

          Second, Ringo is not paying more for his education as you assert. He is NOT allowed to use the hotspot you say. It clearly states that in the post. I quote: “something he says is forbidden by school board policy”.

          Third, he DOES get to pick. It’s his choice to sign or not. He has no right to privacy when using school property and resources. None. Period. It’s the same reason his locker can be searched at will. It’s not his property. His right to privacy does not extend to publicly owned equipment.

          And you can blame Apple if you want, but they are not the only company in schools. Chromebooks are using Google software and students are bound by Google’s and the district’s agreements. I’d be surprised if a student is not required to sign an acceptable use agreement with the district before using any device connected to the internet, including Windows computers.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/09/2015 - 01:53 pm.

            Corrections? Not so Much

            Some commenter’s are obviously hung up on Ringo’s technical skills or lack thereof but whether or not he’s “DOS batching” or not doesn’t invalidate all of his claims. This is not a technical article. Claiming that he was kicked out of the building for some other reason than the one stated in the article, without any supportive evidence, IS an ad-homenin attack.

            Ringo IS using his own hotspot:

            “Ringo says he has been operating in a kind of policy no-man’s-land since back-to-business week, free of Wayzata’s Internet privacy rules but afoul of the policy on student hotspots.”

            He’s using his own hotsoot, and he’s paying for it.

            “Third, he DOES get to pick. It’s his choice to sign or not. He has no right to privacy when using school property and resources. None. Period. It’s the same reason his locker can be searched at will. It’s not his property. His right to privacy does not extend to publicly owned equipment.”

            You’re assertions are simply wrong. You seem to think that students in public schools have no privacy rights all. This is simply not true. Student do have some privacy rights, AND they have rights to due process if or when they are disciplined for any reason. I’ve already provided the example of the network the U of M, and we can talk about computers in public libraries if you want. Just as a matter of principle the fact that something is publicly owned doesn’t mean you forfeit your right to privacy or any other civil rights. You don’t lose your civil rights when you step onto a publicly owned bus or subway for instance. If the police want to see what books you’ve been checking out of the public library they have to get a warrant.

            Beyond that, I’ll explain again: sure, Ringo can choose not to sign the contract, but this is a public school, delivering a constitutionally mandated public education, they can’t make students sign contracts in order to receive that education. This is why Ringo is still in school despite refusing, and it’s probably why they’re allowing him access to his own hotspot. Shutting down his hotspot would be the functional equivalent of suspending or expelling him, and they can’t do that because all he’s really doing is accessing course material he has a right to access… they can’t “discipline” him for doing that.

            I think what we’re seeing here is comments from private sector techies who don’t seem to realize that Ringo is NOT an employee of the school, and Wyazata High School is NOT a private company.

            • Submitted by Marc Post on 01/09/2015 - 03:18 pm.

              I disagree

              I said Ringo’s factual errors speak to his credibility and to the general accuracy of the post. I find his errors to be telling. If Ringo uses technical jargon to make is point, those technical errors weaken the argument.

              If Ringo is using his own hotspot, he is knowingly and willingly violating district policy. It is not allowed. The district does not want him to do this by his own admission. I don’t think his willful expense is of any relevance.

              You said “You seem to think that students in public schools have no privacy rights all.” Nonsense. Student’s do have privacy rights. I said those privacy rights don’t extend to publicly owned equipment. It’s the district’s network and iPad. It’s not for his private use in any way.

              Ringo has every right to not sign, but he is not free of the consequence of that choice. If he has to use an alternative, like textbooks and paper, then he will be educated as so many have before him. Shutting down his hotspot is, in no way, “the functional equivalent of suspending or expelling him”. He can, and will, receive an education in another format. He is entitled to that under FERPA.

              Everyone realizes Ringo is not an employee and that Wayzata is not a private company. He is a minor in a public school. That is exactly why Ringo does not have the rights you think he does. Public schools (and libraries) are bound by the Child Internet Protection Act law. Here’s the Wikipedia link: If you read it, you’ll see it’s been challenged and upheld by SCOTUS. Wayzata is in no way unique. Every E-12 school will have a policy in place.

              Maybe Ringo should file a lawsuit.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/10/2015 - 10:31 am.

                Repeating statements doesn’t make them so


                ” I said those privacy rights don’t extend to publicly owned equipment.”

                Yes, you keep saying but your saying it doesn’t make it true. I’ve already provided many examples but here’s another one: MPLS has a public wifi system, users do not surrender their privacy rights when they access that system. It simply isn’t true that public ownership obviates civil rights, on the contrary citizens typically have more civil rights when operating in public spaces or using public equipment. You simply have this backwards, private owners can restrict civil rights, the government cannot. When we say something is owned by the public, in fact that means it’s owned by the government.

                ” If he has to use an alternative, like textbooks and paper, then he will be educated as so many have before him.”

                I think the article makes it clear that his hotspot IS his only alternative, and yes he’s using it, and more than likely the reason the school is allowing him to use it is because it IS his only alternative. The school is building an education system that’s dependent on this technology. We actually have a term for the kind of system your describing… “separate but equal”… that was actually outlawed in 1954.

                “He is a minor in a public school. That is exactly why Ringo does not have the rights you think he does. Public schools (and libraries) are bound by the Child Internet Protection Act law. Here’s the Wikipedia link: If you read it…”

                I hate to say it but despite your claim you clearly don’t seem to understand the difference between public and private institutions and individual rights in these settings. As for CIPA, that law requires some filtering of content, and limiting access to certain content, it does not require monitoring of users. Ringo isn’t complaining that the school is limiting his access to certain content so much as he’s challenging their demand that he consent to them tracking his use, that goes beyond the requirements of CIPA. From your link:

                “CIPA does not, however, require that Internet use be tracked”

                I wouldn’t take MY legal advice if I was Ringo, but I’m not sure he has much of a legal case at this point as long as the school isn’t restricting his access to necessary class curriculum. I think his hotspot bill for accessing curriculum would have to reach a certain level of expense as to be onerous, I don’t know how much it’s costing him but he’d have to break it out from his non-curriculum use. The only other problem the school might have is the e-mail thing, if e-mail has become an integral part of their education plan they have to make sure Ringo is getting necessary e-mails and is able to respond. If they can do that through something like a g-mail account OK, but if he’s not able to send and receive critical communications regarding class work because of their e-mail block, he might have legitimate complaint. I don’t think he’d have to file lawsuit, I think they could resolve it by either reinstating his e-mail access or using a public e-mail.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/08/2015 - 11:04 am.

    To put a finer point on it…

    When the Wayzata Schools provide devices to access required curriculum, and limit that access to only those devices that are provided; and then require that all students using those devices surrender their rights to privacy, they may well be violating students rights. Basically they’re requiring that a student surrender his or her right to privacy (and students DO have some privacy rights) in order to access their constitutionally guaranteed education. At the end of the day the school probably can’t do that simply as a matter of technical convenience. If they want to build some kind of technology into their system they have to find a way to do it without requiring students surrender civil rights.

    For instance students and faculty at the U of M have access to a campus network but I don’t think they have to sing away privacy rights in order to connect to it? And the U doesn’t limit access to it’s own devices. I don’t really know why a High School network should be any different?

  15. Submitted by Mark Byrnes on 01/08/2015 - 04:54 pm.

    “DOS batch” is not a language. It is type of file.

    Also you don’t really “code” a batch file. The batch file contains a script. The script can run command line arguments.

  16. Submitted by Alan Straka on 01/10/2015 - 07:16 pm.

    No right to privacy

    These are school owned computers/tablets. It is just like the rules in the workplace. Your employers has a right to monitor your activity on your work computer. There is no expectation of privacy. If you want privacy use your own computer at home. Of course, your rights there are limited by what your parents allow.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/11/2015 - 09:04 am.


      This is a public school, not a private sector business. Ringo is student, NOT an employee. The courts have established that unlike employee’s in the private sector, public school students DO have some privacy rights. Ringo has constitutional right to a public education in MN. Ringo has the same right to the same education as every other student enrolled in the school. The school cannot prohibit his classroom participation and force him to work from home (on his own computer). A public school cannot require that students consent to arbitrary and capricious surveillance in order to receive their constitutionally guaranteed public education.

      This isn’t to say that the school has no right or obligation to monitor some student activity but those rights are not absolute. Public school students do have some expectation of privacy, and the schools are bound by probable cause requirements in some circumstances. For instance while statues give schools the right to open lockers in MN, they cannot search private belonging in those lockers without probable suspicion. No public school could require that it’s students sign a consent to search their personal belongings without probable suspicion in order to attend school. These are facts.

      It looks to me like Ringo’s argument is that the contract the school requesting is equivalent to requiring a blanket consent to surveillance without probable suspicion in order to access essential class material. He’s got a case. For one thing, the school doesn’t actually need a students consent if the school has reason to believe a student is doing something their not supposed to be doing in the first place. The question really is: What’s the deal with this agreement? If the school is simply asking Ringo to acknowledge the fact that the school has a right to monitor his internet activity on their network IF they suspect he’s doing something he’s not supposed to be doing, Ringo shouldn’t have a problem. But if this document is telling Ringo he has to consent to unlimited surveillance regardless of probable suspicion of any kind in order to get the same education everyone else is getting, he’s got an argument for not signing.

  17. Submitted by Joe Musich on 01/11/2015 - 09:07 am.

    Privacy rights …

    no longer exist for anyone ? And this case is an example of how should these rights are if they ever existed are whittled away a little at a time. Abridge some here and there until the entire picture becomes so clouded and incomphrehensible that cogent discussion is nearly impossible. The big picture gets toatally lost as I beileve it is in this discussion. It starts with Ringo asking questions which really do not get answered and then progresses to an almost how people are individually affected by fear opinion based discussion. The fear originating from either beileving the need to affect privacy because of the dangers if we do not, to those who fear the individual consequence of the loss of privacy because of oversight. As I see it there is alot of “yelling fire in a crowded theater” going around. In my opinion in the entire discussion about privacy and therefore security and not just at this page what is lacking is data regarding ther consequences if we do not have the oversight. The answer to that question always seems to be, “we will never know what we prevent because preventing it makes it never happen. Which means there never can be data.” This is the world we have moved to. Is this the world we want ?

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/11/2015 - 09:14 am.

    Real quickly

    Mr. Post said:

    “First, pointing out where Ringo is factually wrong is not a personal attack. It speaks to his credibility and the accuracy of the post generally.”

    This is a logical fallacy, one cannot assume that if someone is mistaken in one instance they are mistaken in ALL instances. That’s not a rational appraisal of credibility. For instance it would be illogical to argue that: “Marc took a wrong turn on his way to school this morning, therefore he clearly does not know how to drive.”

    The argument here is: “Ringo clearly doesn’t understand the nature of HTTPS, therefore he has no right to privacy and doesn’t understand his rights.”

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/11/2015 - 11:33 am.


    Obviously this is something of a tempest in a teapot, but the thing that I find interesting here is this apparently visceral impulse to discipline Ringo for mere non-conformance. It’s kind of an ironic expression of pedanticism. That’s why I mentioned the notion of indoctrination in an earlier post. This hostile reaction to non-conformity is… interesting.

  20. Submitted by Codi Alen on 01/28/2015 - 01:31 am.

    After reading the article, I found the privacy issue to be an important deal. Invading privacy can be a disastrous mishap especially because there are so many files that shouldn’t be shared online or with other people. Many people have secret documents or pictures that aren’t meant to be shared because it would be wrong to exploit them onto the internet. For example, if a girl takes pictures of herself and a hacker exposes those pictures online, it is wrong for them to do so because those weren’t their pictures to see. Invading privacy is like stealing privacy. You can steal their files, pictures, or documents and spread them to other people as well. This invasion of privacy is foul, cruel, and fiendish. In Rango’s case, it’s worse because it is without the consent of the students who are currently using their devices. Codi Alen-MP

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