Do you remember Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Before he sets out to enjoy the greatest hooky every played, Ferris hacks into his high school's attendance records, changing his 9 absences to 2.
"I wanted a car," Matthew Broderick deadpans to the camera. "I got a computer."
This morning, I thought of this classic and funny scene from that classic and funny movie when I read a story in the news. It appears that in Pennsylvania (in the Northwestern Lehigh School District, to be precise), there was a breach of cyber security. The district's computer system was broken into and grades for two students were changed. The thing is, it wasn't one of the kids who did the hacking.
It was their mother. OMG!
My initial reaction was, "Why didn't I think of that?"
My next reaction was, "Whoa. How did we get here?" We all talk about helicopter parents and, in my community, most of us do hover more than we should. But, surely there's a line, isn't there? Changing a grade, infiltrating a school's database? Yeah, I would say it's pretty clear that a line or two was crossed.
I know, I know. There's so much more pressure these days. It's tougher to get into the best colleges. Competition is fierce. Blah, blah, blah. Apparently, moms are fierce too. I come from a long line of mothers willing to go to bat for their daughters. And, I've sent the occasional email when one of my daughter's grades started to drop. But, I don't condone cheating. And, even if I knew enough to commit a cyber crime, I certainly wouldn't do it. Sheesh!
A friend pointed out recently that parents used to be on the teacher's side. He's right. If a high school student got a bad grade, they got grounded. Now, they get a bad grade, they get an attorney. We're not really setting up a scenario in which kids are encouraged to listen or follow rules. When my daughter doesn't like a particular faculty member (and, believe me, teens can get very mean and very personal when it comes to griping about their teachers), I try not only to help her be kind and compassionate but also to recognize that, like it or not, that teacher is an authority figure and deserves attention and respect.
Technology has made it easier than ever to cheat. Unsure about a date on a history test? Simply raise your hand to go to the bathroom and Google it on your smart phone. (Phones were supposed to be kept in lockers at my daughter's middle school. Guess where the girls put them? Inside those expensive UGG boots they all wear.) Want to get a copy of a quiz before you take it? No problem, your BFF can send you a picture of it by text. And, we've all read stories recently about brainy kids who were paid to take the SATs for other people.
I even have issues with paid test preparation courses. I know firsthand that the girls in my high school who could afford those classes had a distinct advantage over those of us who couldn't. There's no law or even rule being broken there, but aren't we sending a message? Money can buy good grades.
So, what kind of message is "Hacker Mom" sending? Yikes!
Now that she's been caught, here's what we can learn from her. People, listen up ...
Unlawful use of a computer, computer trespassing and altering data are felonies. That's right: fel-o-nies. (Allegedly she didn't realize that what she was doing was illegal. Okay then.) She is out on bail and faces up to 42 years in jail and/or a $90,000 fine. When Ferris did it, it was seriously funny. In real life, it's a serious crime.
And, here's one of the most amazing parts of the story. Her son's grade was changed from a 98 to a 99.
Let me tell you, if my daughter comes home with a 98, I won't be committing a fraud. I'll be too busy opening the champagne.