L.A. Unified takes back iPads as $1-billion plan hits hurdles


Los Angeles school officials have taken back iPads from students at Westchester and Roosevelt high schools and possibly other campuses as well until further notice, the latest fallout from student hacking of the devices.

The move is another complication in efforts to provide an iPad to every student as part of a $1-billion technology plan in the nation’s second-largest school system.

The first devices are going to 47 schools, a process that has involved working out more kinks than expected.


Staff at Roosevelt in Boyle Heights and students at Westchester confirmed that the $700 tablets were taken back Friday by school officials. But a Roosevelt teacher said only about two-thirds of about 2,100 devices were immediately returned by students.

A week ago, L.A. Unified School District administrators were scrambling to respond when they learned that students skirted security measures that were intended to block free browsing of the Internet. In interviews, students said they had been disappointed at their inability to get to social networking and music streaming sites. Their work-around involved a couple of clicks — and soon hundreds of students were reaching any website they wanted.

The district tally of hackers was 260 students at Roosevelt, 10 students from Angelou Community High School in South Park and 70 at Westchester High. The numbers could be higher, based on reports from students and employees at the campuses.

District officials last week expressed some admiration for the students’ ingenuity, and they discussed the possibility of enlisting students’ help on an anti-hacking committee.

At the schools, however, students reported a less sanguine response, with some expressing concern about threats of discipline. District technicians had been able to tell immediately which devices had bypassed the security filter.

The district did not respond to questions Monday about having students surrender the devices.


Students, however, said they were directed to turn in the devices indefinitely.

“They carted them out of every classroom in sixth period,” Westchester senior Brian Young said Monday after school. “There has been no word of when they’ll be back.”

He added that teachers were talking about the possibility that the tablets might not be returned until late December, although administrators were making no such predictions, he said.

At Roosevelt, “we don’t know when or if we will able to use the iPads again for classroom instruction — this week, this semester or this year,” said Lisa Alva, the coordinator for academic services to low-income students.

She added that the administration told her it had collected only about two-thirds of the iPads from students by the end of school Friday. If that’s accurate, then many students may have violated recent instructions to keep the iPads on campus.

Last week, officials said that security was only an issue off school grounds and that the devices could and would be used at school.

Roosevelt had been one of 13 schools to test iPads last year, but the 400 students who participated did not take the devices home during the spring semester trial.


A district spokesman focused Monday on the issue of when students could take the tablets off campus again.

“We are working with Apple to develop a solution” that would allow students to use the devices at home, spokesman Thomas Waldman said in a statement. “In the meantime, our team is working with each school to assist them with options for allowing students to use the devices at their school only.”