this week in sarasota

Is Changing Your Teacher’s Desktop Really a Felony?

Last week, CBS News in Sarasota, Florida, reported the story of a 14-year-old named Domanik Green who got charged with a felony after changing his teacher’s desktop wallpaper to a photo of two men kissing. Town Sheriff Chris Nocco called it an offense against a computer system, and unauthorized access, since the crime involved logging into an administrator account without permission.

But while the Sheriff’s description calls to mind a hacker hunched over a terminal—penetrating the mainframe, or whatever—the eighth grader’s own account of his future-crime sounds rather less diabolical. Green claims the administrator password was the teacher’s last name—apparently the case with other administrator accounts at Paul R. Smith Middle School—and that the teacher had typed it in full view of the class. Green and other students had previously used accounts on various school computers to screen-share with each other.

Under Florida law, hacking government systems in a way that “interrupts or impairs a governmental operation or public communication, transportation, or supply of water, gas, or other public service,” is a felony. But while a public school is a “governmental operation,” forcing a teacher to look at men kissing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.