Ex-student faces felony charge in Clay case

2/14/2007
BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Hall
Hall

A former Clay High School student was charged yesterday with a felony after police said he hacked into school personnel and student files, downloading sensitive information onto his iPod.

The junior, who has since withdrawn from the school, was charged with unauthorized use of a computer, a felony. He was also charged with possessing a criminal tool - the iPod - since it was used in the crime, said Oregon Police Detective Janet Zale.

Oregon City Superintendent John Hall and a police detective said the personal information did not make its way beyond the student's iPod.

"We contained [the information leak] to the school. That's the good part of this story," Mr. Hall said.

Mr. Hall declined to discuss whether the student withdrew from the high school on his own or was forced to do so.

The superintendent also refused to identify "two certified high school staff" who received written reprimands in the incident for their "inaction or lack of follow-through."

Keith Stephens, a computer program teacher, is listed as a witness on the police report.

The student - who has no previous criminal record - was in the school's computer lab on Jan. 11 when he accessed the school's personnel files, police said.

The teen later argued with a student after she accused him of cheating. The suspect threatened to open up a credit card in her name and ruin her credit, she told police.

A school resource officer began investigating the girl's claims that day and talked to another student, who said he'd seen sensitive files on the suspect's computer. Confronted, the suspect told the officer that the files had simply appeared on his computer. He denied downloading the information, according to the police report.

The officer also spoke to Mr. Stephens. The teacher said the suspect and another student were "somewhat loud" earlier that day in his classroom as they looked "intently" at a computer screen.

Mr. Stephens saw the students were looking at the personal files of teachers and students, asked the students how they got them, and they told him they just appeared. He ordered them to log out of the files and delete any information that may have been downloaded, according to his statement to the school resource officer.

"The suspects stated they would, but [Mr. Stephens] did not see them do it," the police officer reported. The report does not indicate the identity of the other district employee involved.

After staff confiscated the iPod later that day, the school's technical engineer found the sensitive information on it, police said.

The case was turned over to Oregon police, who consulted with the Toledo Police Department and the Defiance County Sheriff's Department.

Detective Zale said it appeared that the computer files were created the same day the iPod was seized from the suspect and the information was not disseminated or used elsewhere. In fact, a report several days later from another teacher about $352.23 in bogus credit card charges on Jan. 10 and Jan. 13 does not appear related to the Jan. 11 incident, he said.

As of yesterday, Lucas County Juvenile Court had not scheduled a first hearing in the youth's criminal case.

Contact Robin Erb at:

robinerb@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.