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71 iPads issued to students have gone missing, LAUSD says

Los Angeles school district officials say 71 iPads distributed to students as part of a 13-school trial run have gone missing. Of those, 69 were from one campus. 

Since the trial run, district officials said Thursday, new security measures are in place, designed to frustrate future thefts. The revelation comes as the L.A. Unified School District is launching a $1-billion program to equip every student in the nation's second-largest school system with the devices.

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Central to the effort are security measures to keep track of the tablets, which cost nearly $700 apiece and are intended to be sent home with students.

The loss of tablets last year is not an omen of things to come but an experience that has resulted in stronger safeguards, said Lt. Jose Santome of the school district's police department.

"We have a very vigorous control for this rollout," Santome said. "We know what's going out and deployed on every campus."

Five of the new iPads in the larger program -- out of about 14,000 so far distributed -- have disappeared, although one of those was subsequently recovered, Santome said.

The problem last year was most acute at the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills. Administrators distributed about 1,200 iPads there, but at the end of the year, 69 did not come back.

The district was not able to respond quickly last year for several reasons, Santome said. First, officials needed to sort through storage carts to determine whether any iPads had ended up in the wrong place, for example, or whether two of the devices were placed into a storage slot meant for one. Then the district had to tabulate serial numbers for every tablet to determine which ones were missing.

Ultimately, he said, the district was able to link missing iPads to the students to whom they had been assigned. Investigators are in the process of interviewing those students.

But that's unlikely to resolve what happened. If students claim they turned in their device, the district may have no way to prove otherwise, Santome said.

He added that the district has addressed security shortcomings. Global positioning software can now be activated for every tablet, and an electronic inventory system is supposed to register at all times who is responsible for a particular iPad. The district also can shut down iPads that are reported as stolen.

Officials also acknowledged that student hacking of an iPad security system last week was more widespread than originally reported by the district.

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howard.blume@latimes.com

Twitter: @howardblume


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