High School junior gets detention for using Firefox in class — or does he?


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A teacher is assigning a student (name withheld) to detention for using “Foxfire” (sic) as his browser, instead of (what we are left to imagine as the prescribed browser for the school) the evil Internet Explorer.

This sad tale of cruel, unthinking authority (the school and Microsoft) crushing the freedom and agile creativity of our intelligent hero (the student and Mozilla) seems tailor-made to rally the outcries of geeks, open-source advocates, and libertarians everywhere.  And perhaps “tailor-made” is exactly correct:

Recently, a file was uploaded to the Internet purporting to be a copy of a letter from Big Spring High School to a student regarding a two hour detention. The uploaded letter was an altered version of a detention letter sent to a student. Unfortunately, privacy concerns prevent the School District from giving a full explanation of the nature and source of the letter’s alteration at this time. The Big Spring School District does have confirmation that the discipline letter was altered.

The reports, blogs and other sources on the Internet indicating that a Big Spring student was assigned detention for using the Firefox internet browser instead of Internet Explorer are untrue and were based on the fake letter. Detention is assigned in our schools after appropriate warnings are given, if students continue to engage in non-academic activities or fail to follow a teacher’s directive during class time discipline can and will be assigned.

Sincerely yours,

John C. Scudder

High School Principal

A posting on the Big Spring High School’s web site, which I easily found by Googling the name and city of the school from the letterhead.

So put your pitchforks away, folks.

What’s interesting is the debate this generated in the comments at Gizmodo about whether the school has the right to dictate what browser students can use on the school’s computers.  My own feeling is that any organization has the right to limit what programs are run on their own network, but I also think that schools should allow and even encourage students to try out different browsers.  In fact, if an admin is worried about security, then it’s IE that should be banned.  What are your thoughts?







39 Responses to High School junior gets detention for using Firefox in class — or does he?

  1. I think any admin has the right to deny alternate browsers. On my network I have software deny policy that won’t allow firefox to run, this is because we have put additional settings via group policy into IE.

    run what ever you want at home, I use FF at home, but not at my office.

      • yes, firefox.exe is blocked from running, we also have another block in place so users can’t rename it to firefox1.exe and run that. I’m not totally sure how the fingerprint blocking work but it works really well.

  2. I think any admin has the right to deny alternate browsers. On my network I have software deny policy that won't allow firefox to run, this is because we have put additional settings via group policy into IE.

    run what ever you want at home, I use FF at home, but not at my office.

      • yes, firefox.exe is blocked from running, we also have another block in place so users can't rename it to firefox1.exe and run that. I'm not totally sure how the fingerprint blocking work but it works really well.

    • shut up! the teacher was probably rude. saying something like foxfire in quotes is key to mean, the mocking of the student and FIREFOX

    • Now the kid is being suspended for all of the hate mail being sent to the teacher and the school. Supposedly someone sent a virus and crashed the schools mainframe and they had to hire a special IT team to fix it. I guess they don’t have a good enough IT team already(or no team at all). I probably could have fixed the problem (i mean c’mon) and, anyway, the kid didn’t do anything after the initial punishment so this is unjust and wrong!

    • shut up! the teacher was probably rude. saying something like foxfire in quotes is key to mean, the mocking of the student and FIREFOX

    • Now the kid is being suspended for all of the hate mail being sent to the teacher and the school. Supposedly someone sent a virus and crashed the schools mainframe and they had to hire a special IT team to fix it. I guess they don't have a good enough IT team already(or no team at all). I probably could have fixed the problem (i mean c'mon) and, anyway, the kid didn't do anything after the initial punishment so this is unjust and wrong!

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  5. Looks to me like doublespeak:
    Certainly the letter was altered.. the personal identification was removed (ie student’s name).

    They clarified that the student was given detention because of disciplinary warnings, and not the use of an “alternate” browser.
    Nevertheless, it still appears that since the “warnings” were about Firefox, the detention was about Firefox.
    Reminds me of the time my 9 year old son was suspended for 3 days for correcting a teacher’s math in class. We fought that and won a public apology from the teacher and school board.
    If the school system has reasons why “alternate browsers” should not be used, then they should be banned, similar to the guy in comment #1. Else, it’s just another case of a marginal teacher trying to overcontrol students to gain some kind of power “high”.

    jon

  6. Looks to me like doublespeak:

    Certainly the letter was altered.. the personal identification was removed (ie student's name).

    They clarified that the student was given detention because of disciplinary warnings, and not the use of an "alternate" browser.

    Nevertheless, it still appears that since the "warnings" were about Firefox, the detention was about Firefox.

    Reminds me of the time my 9 year old son was suspended for 3 days for correcting a teacher's math in class. We fought that and won a public apology from the teacher and school board.

    If the school system has reasons why "alternate browsers" should not be used, then they should be banned, similar to the guy in comment #1. Else, it's just another case of a marginal teacher trying to overcontrol students to gain some kind of power "high".

    jon

  7. This Principal is a supposed fool and the Teacher is, according to many sources, mean as the end boss of starfox. (the old one)

  8. Well my college does have Firefox on the system, but it’s version 1.5 so I decided to install 2.0 (and quite a few extensions) on my pendrive. No complaints and half the class has got me to copy it on to their pendrives :D

  9. This Principal is a supposed fool and the Teacher is, according to many sources, mean as the end boss of starfox. (the old one)

  10. Well my college does have Firefox on the system, but it's version 1.5 so I decided to install 2.0 (and quite a few extensions) on my pendrive. No complaints and half the class has got me to copy it on to their pendrives :D

  11. Even if this turns out to be true I don’t think that this was an effort by the teacher to stop the student using an alternate browser.

    I don’t know about you, but in my school we sometimes had non-IT teachers take us to do some work on the computers. If they aren’t very computer literate they wouldnt necessarily know that IE isn’t the only browser available. And most teachers don’t let you mess about in class so any program the teacher didn’t recognise would be construed as an attempt to mess about. Hence the detention.

  12. Even if this turns out to be true I don't think that this was an effort by the teacher to stop the student using an alternate browser.

    I don't know about you, but in my school we sometimes had non-IT teachers take us to do some work on the computers. If they aren't very computer literate they wouldnt necessarily know that IE isn't the only browser available. And most teachers don't let you mess about in class so any program the teacher didn't recognise would be construed as an attempt to mess about. Hence the detention.

  13. Well my college does have Firefox on the system, but it’s version 1.5 so I decided to install 2.0 (and quite a few extensions) on my pendrive. No complaints and half the class has got me to copy it on to their pendrives

  14. Well my college does have Firefox on the system, but it’s version 1.5 so I decided to install 2.0 (and quite a few extensions) on my pendrive. No complaints and half the class has got me to copy it on to their pendrives

  15. Was that teacher a paid Microsoft emploee ? Because in my school , IE is not allowed to be launched. Only FF and Opera. If you launch IE , the controlling system sends a popup to the teacher , and you are told to close it or leave. But anyway , why not Linux? Such as Ubuntu with a LTSP server?

  16. Was that teacher a paid Microsoft emploee ? Because in my school , IE is not allowed to be launched. Only FF and Opera. If you launch IE , the controlling system sends a popup to the teacher , and you are told to close it or leave. But anyway , why not Linux? Such as Ubuntu with a LTSP server?

  17. Was that teacher a paid Microsoft emploee ? Because in my school , IE is not allowed to be launched. Only FF and Opera. If you launch IE , the controlling system sends a popup to the teacher , and you are told to close it or leave. But anyway , why not Linux? Such as Ubuntu with a LTSP server?

  18. On my own computer, I actually went out of my way to avoid Internet Explorer. I made an ISO image of a Windows XP disc and modified the installer to omit installation of Internet Explorer, made critical updates pre-install with windows. Although, normally, you cannot use windows updates with Firefox there are work around. And although they say Internet Explorer is an integral part of windows I seem to have use of My Computer without it.

    My computer is much more secure as a result, since many of the new Bootkits actually make use of security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.

    If a school did something like this, and a student then installed Internet Explorer… I think there would be hell to pay. Because you can’t simply uninstall IE. You’d have to reformat.

    Beyond that, personally, I think a student should be allowed to run anything they want that doesn’t damage the computer as long as they are passing grades. In fact, allowing students to run simple games during class as a reward for passing grades might actually help them.

  19. On my own computer, I actually went out of my way to avoid Internet Explorer. I made an ISO image of a Windows XP disc and modified the installer to omit installation of Internet Explorer, made critical updates pre-install with windows. Although, normally, you cannot use windows updates with Firefox there are work around. And although they say Internet Explorer is an integral part of windows I seem to have use of My Computer without it.

    My computer is much more secure as a result, since many of the new Bootkits actually make use of security vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.

    If a school did something like this, and a student then installed Internet Explorer… I think there would be hell to pay. Because you can't simply uninstall IE. You'd have to reformat.

    Beyond that, personally, I think a student should be allowed to run anything they want that doesn't damage the computer as long as they are passing grades. In fact, allowing students to run simple games during class as a reward for passing grades might actually help them.

  20. I can see a network administrator not wanting the kids installing firefox extensions which could be possibly harmful. But that wasn't the case here. This was a teacher who was simply ignorant and possibly an aggressive person. No teacher I knew would stop me from using my favourite browser. They likely wouldn't even notice.

    I think network administrators should be using browsers other than IE especially since good browsers like firefox and chrome are open source and an experienced network administrator could just remove the user's ability to download extensions.

    In short, there is never a reason for network administrators to be sitting behind the curve when they have the ability to use more secure software for free.