Roosevelt High students using iPads

Roosevelt High students using iPads in September, shortly before the devices were put into storage for two months. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / September 17, 2013)

Two months after losing iPads because of a security breach, Roosevelt High students began using the devices again last week. The iPads remain out of service at two other schools affected after students deleted software filters so they could browse the Internet freely.

The security episode triggered an early crisis as Los Angeles Unified was starting to provide tablets for every student, teacher and school administrator. Other problems have surfaced since, and the distribution of the devices has been delayed beyond the first group of 47 schools.

The district’s hope is to bridge a technology gap that leaves low-income students at a disadvantage academically. The plan always included letting students take the devices off campus.

But in late September, within a day or two of getting the iPads, more than 300 students at the Roosevelt, Westchester and Angelou campuses discovered the two keystrokes necessary to remove restrictive filters. Students then had access to social networking and music sites, among others. In response, officials quickly banned off-campus use until further notice; all students at the three campuses had to turn in the iPads.

At Roosevelt, in Boyle Heights, students had to wait two months for the return of the devices, and the redeployment is partial. English teachers received a set for their classes in a secure cart that also serves as a charging station. Apparently, the tablets arrived too late for a midterm assessment that was supposed to include online research about National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Teachers photocopied articles instead.

“LOTS of paper used,” reported one teacher in an email. He added: “I don' t really see how we're going to use [the iPads] for the remaining three weeks of the semester.” 

“They want to use the iPads,” said Patrick Sinclair, a spokesman for the nonprofit overseeing Roosevelt. “They find them useful.”

At Westchester High, the iPads remain in storage. The plan there is to resume using them next semester, when, presumably, they can be taken home again, said Principal Robert Canosa-Carr.

At the Angelou campus in South Park, there are two separate high schools, with different iPad fates. At the Fine & Performing Arts school, students are using iPads on campus. At the Global Issues school, students have not yet resumed using them at all.

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Twitter: @howardblume | howard.blume@latimes.com