Florida Eighth Grader Charged With Felony For School Prank

Domanik-GreenPrisonCellWe have yet another arrest in a school for an act that would have previously resulted in a reprimand and a parent visit with the principal — or at worst a suspension. Florida eighth-grader Domanik Green was accused of breaking into the computer system at the Paul R. Smith Middle School in Holiday, Florida to play a prank on a teacher. He changed the background of the teacher’s computer to show two men kissing. For that, he was charged with a felony for computer hacking. He will be tried as an adult. He is fourteen years old.

We have been discussing the trend toward suspending and expelling students (and teachers) for comments that they make on social media (here and here and here and here and here and here and here) This includes arrests for pranks (here and here).

This was hardly a world class, NSA hacking case. Green said that he logged off the computer after trying to do a the test because it didn’t have a camera. He then said “So I logged out of that computer and logged into a differing one and I logged into a teacher’s computer who I didn’t like and tried putting inappropriate pictures onto his computer to annoy him.” He knew that the teacher used his last name as his password.

The initial response would seem to have been appropriate and sufficient punishment: he was suspended for 10 days. However, adults then decided that he also needed to be made a felon. While he can likely be put into a program for first offenders that could wipe his record clean, it still makes no sense to me to criminalize such school pranks.

Why teachers and administrators want to criminalize such conduct is a mystery but the police are showing the same lack of discretion or judgment. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco insisted that the 14-year-old deserves to be arrested and that we are all better off: “Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done.” Right. He might have added a Star Wars theme to the school webpage. Imagine that.

44 thoughts on “Florida Eighth Grader Charged With Felony For School Prank”

  1. Just wondering why a photo of this kid is being used if he is only 14? Is it because he is being charged as an adult? Usually photos of minors, charged with crimes, are not released. I wonder why there is such a severe backlash aimed against this individual student. The posting of the two men kissing, on the teacher’s computer, may be driving this severe reaction, especially if the teacher happens to be homosexual. There is more to this story.

  2. The IT policies which allowed such weak passwords are a flaw built into the system by negligent IT system administrators, the teacher is negligent in creating and using a weak password (even if the system allows it), and the student is then punished for exposing said negligence by harmlessly changing the background of a page (the fact that it was two men kissing could be as much about the teachers homophobic tendencies as the students – in fact the student as much as says that). If a “real” hacker had decided to attack said system with such weak password policies much worse could be done – and may yet be done since I will assume that the administration will conclude that the draconian punishment of the student is somehow enough to fix their mistake and patch their security flaw, but if any a group of even script-kiddy hackers decides to attack the school or I would assume, even the district computer systems in defense of this kid, they will soon see what real damage can be wrought – and if the hackers are skilled much of it they may never identify.
    In a just world, the kid should have been treated as a whistleblower, but this is not a just world. This is the world where somebody like Snowden who exposed gross breaches of the Constitution has to flee for his life to Russia, and where we would even force down the airplane of a foreign president to get him. Even in the a world where we punish kids like this, a simple detention would seem to be enough and the ten day suspension draconian, much worse than an afternoon in the stocks in the town square would ever be. But to charge this 14year old kid as s felonious computer hacker because “there’s no telling what he might have done”… With a statute that was created to go after those who would use computer hacking as an alternative to burglary or armed robbery for economic gain at our expense – to put it bluntly – that’s just plain f#cked up.

    That the Sheriff is fully participating in this means that this is a Sheriff who has absolutely no concept of the word “JUSTICE” as in our Criminal Justice System. Now, one would hope that at this stage the DA in this county would do his party in acting as a filter on an overzealous constabulary and refuse to file on this case, or perhaps reduce the charge to criminal mischief and file it as a juvenile offense, but from the tenor of the article it seems like the DA is just going to rubber stamp the actions of the Sheriff , all determined to “make an example” of this 14 year old kid who meant no real harm to anybody (as are several posters here).
    Now, I wonder if we will have a judge who will have the courage to simply throw this out – with prejudice, or if this farce will continue to play out. The simple annoying background change and the actions of the School District and Sheriff bringing shame on all involved with this far out of proportion to what they hope to accomplish.

    And let’s say this works… And we send our 14 year old to the horrors of an Adut Prison for many years for this act (something so many of you are ready to condemn him to – beatings, rape, psychological deprivation) and for what? Can you now imagine our already overcrowded prisons having to deal with every juvenile misjudgment? Are you ready to support this kid in the prison system for the 5-10year stretch he may do for the dangerous crime of annoying his teacher by changing his background? Him and the thousands of dangerous annoying juveniles like him? – in Prisons where they will study and learn what it takes to be a true danger to society, and where they will come out still young and now full of anger.

    Because you wanted to teach them a lesson – and you did. Unfortunately for you the lessons taught in prison are not the ones you wanted them to learn. In fact quite the opposite.

    The fact is, that as a society we can not afford to keep teaching these lessons to our youth for these petty offenses of rocking the boat. Not for these, not for petty drug crimes. That experiment in criminal justice and behavior modification has failed and we as a society have, and are, paying a very steep price for continuing it.

    My only hope is that whoever opposes this Sheriff and the DA complicit in this farce the next time they have to stand for election will make a HUGE deal about this – make it a centerpiece of their campaign, and ask the question “have all the more serious crime problems been solved that we want to waste our criminal justice resources on this?” & “Is this what we want for true justice in our county”.

    Then – you get what you elect.

    1. wrxdave – if Snowden had not moved to Hawaii, and downloaded materials, then I would be on your side, but he did.

  3. It was a prank and should be treated as a prank. There is no reason whatsoever to involve the police.

    Pot is less harmful than alcohol yet having it has ruined countless lives because of ignorant aspects of society. Thousands and thousands of young people have been sent to prison for just having it on them.

    When society makes these ridiculous judgements and rests its authority and credibility on these actions, society loses credibility. How many lives have been changed for the worse due to the cynicism developed by watching this sort of behavior.

    When a cop gives a lecture to a bunch of high school students about pot, no one in the audience is not laughing to themselves.

  4. There is a question that should be answered.
    If the the teacher did not want the computer settings to be changed then why did he not Password limit the access those parts of the computer?
    He can not say that it can not be done. Using “Administrator” all policies and privilege settings are available to him.
    But then again he may be one of those who puts the password right in plain site not thinking someone will realize it is the real password.
    Maybe the teacher needs to go back to school and learn basic security as a teacher.

  5. How about this one in Alabama a 14 year old boy in 1998 allege to have committed a sex crime, They could not charge him because he was under 16 and the other person was also a boy not under 12.
    They waited until a new law came out in 2006 that made it a life sentence. They had rearrested him on 2006 on the same charge s in 1998.
    He is now serving 3 LIFE and a mandatory 10 Years in an EX POST FACTO law change.
    Seeing that both Florida and Alabama share the same Federal Circuit and that Alabama teaches it is a criminal act to be with some one of the same sex what will this kid get.
    Not long ago a cleric cut off the hands of a person in Georgia under his belief of religious laws.
    Religion and schools should never try to brain wash anyone in to their belief.
    Just like the Muslim in Florida teaching “Stomp on Jesus.”
    The teacher needs to go to jail for not protecting school property with a bona fide password so that the kid could not change any settings.

  6. I agree – charge him. Maybe next time he won’t be such a jerk. The reason school districts get the cops involved can be stated in one word – lawyers. The last thing a school district wants is a parent or teacher suing them. Hence, the cops and “zero tolerance” policies. Don’t like it – stop suing the schools for a big payday every time Johnny or Suzy skins their knee.

  7. Snowdon may be beyond the reach of the law but Domanik isn’t. Hang em high. Make an example of him. How about charging the teach with having an insecure computer using his last name as a password? what a dweeb.

    1. Paul – I am going to back you on this one. When you are teaching, you should never have an insecure password. I am sure that as some teachers’ conference they were told about passwords. He may have been assigned a password and then changed it. Last place I worked we changed passwords every two weeks and you could never repeat a password.

  8. Isaac, The social contract here in the US has indeed been shredded. I see overtly rude behavior on a daily basis. Here is a but one example from yesterday. My bride and I, along w/ friends, took Amtrak from San Diego to Anaheim to see the Angels/Royals game. Amtrak drops you off right in the parking lot of Angel’s Stadium. One of the people w/ us has serious ankle problems, having shattered both ~30 years ago in a bad fall. He doesn’t walk w/ a cane but ambulates w/ difficulty. He is an easygoing, gracious man. Now, the unwritten social contract regarding boarding and disembarking a train is something we all know. You let all the passengers get off before you get on the train. As our friend was getting off, trying to navigate a high step, he was nearly put on his ass by a rude a-hole getting on the train. The guy just charged on, silently doing whatever the f@ck he pleased. Now, there have been violations of the unwritten social contract throughout history. But, the ubiquity of it is very disturbing. This was just a violation, off the top of my head, from yesterday afternoon. Everyone here could come up w/ one in their lives just as easily. It does not bode well for a culture when basic civility goes out the window.

  9. Jim22

    You may suggest anything you wish. What is more important is that one does something, makes an effort, spends the time, etc. Unfortunately America includes all sorts. The idiots that live by the credos: If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Kids raise themselves. It’s just a phase. They have to learn their own lessons their own ways. etc. as a means to avoid the responsibility of raising children are somehow part of our rich American persona. Kids do need to ‘do it on their own’ but they don’t raise themselves.

    The focus of my previous post was of the punishment fitting the crime sort. The kid screwed up, got caught, and should be punished. Turning it over to the criminal justice system is a greater crime than that of the kid. He should be made to understand that if he does this sort of thing he will be surfaced, but in an appropriate manner. Perhaps he should be made to do menial chores around the house of the teacher he does not like. Perhaps he should be made to do menial chores around the school, public library, etc. After spending a dozen or so hours away from what he wants to be doing, thinking of why, he may think twice next time. Society’s overreaction does far more to lower the power of society in the kid’s eyes than an appropriate and temporary punishment. This is the glue that is missing. This mindless turning to the justice system and sending the kid through the ringer is only the result of negligence on the part of society.

  10. Fully agree with the charge. This is called nipping criminal hacking and bigotry behaviors in the bud. Let the kid and his parents sweat and try to wiggle out of that charge. How else do these yahoos learn right from wrong?

    1. FogDogSF – well, they could have just taken him out in back and whipped his ass.

  11. There is not ration common sense judgement in our school systems. On the other hand, was he treat this way be cause the prank included “males kissing”. Either way it nuts

  12. issac – “There is definitely a part of society that seems to be disappearing. The glue that holds the individual responsible to its community is dissolving in a cynicism that is being created by these mindless positions of people in positions of authority.”

    I agree with your comment. May I suggest religion/God/family? As a kid, I was a troublemaker but never with adults since I knew that would get back to me someway somehow. Something has changed. Just this weekend I was walking my dog to pick up church signs for an elderly lady and three punk kids were walking up the street. One had a back pack and had some kind of audio device blaring out a wonderful rap song with the “f” work and “n” word coming out every other second. All three boys were white. It was quite a Norman Rockwell setting. Maybe it would be better for the kids to stay inside.

  13. This is a prime example of a situation where the lawyer for the kid should, in addition to all possible defenses in state court, file an action in federal court to quash the state prosecution and name the prosecutor, and the school principal, as “state actors” in a federal civil rights act lawsuit.
    Seek declaratory relief, injunction, damages, and attorney fees.
    This is on the edge of being protected speech under the First Amendment but more central is the constitutional claim that the principal is in violation of the right of privacy of the kid, in violation of the right to petition his government for redress of grievances (under the First Amdt), the right to be secure in his school from police harassment under the Fourth and Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. I will think of more as the day goes on.

    In the state court criminal trial against the kid I would ask this question to the jury early on as I held up the photo of the two perps kissing. “Are any of your potential jurors related to either of the two perps in this photo?”

  14. I have several times offered my program for lessening the hacking problems that are exploding in our world. Hacking is almost exclusively done by males. And, these males are for the most part, socially inept, iconoclastic, losers. My program, Hookers for Hackers, would be funded by private donations to get these hackers laid. Instead of charging this kid, which is overreach, he would be enlisted in the program. Or, since he’s in the education system, just put him in the class of one of the many sexual predator female teachers. But..as I look @ the photo, I think we’re going to have to pay for this kid to get laid.

  15. Pogo, that’s a lack of a haircut in this case. Crazy kid, but even crazier school and law enforcement. This likely will cause the kid to have LESS respect for the property of others and the authorities who charged him with a crime, not more. When the legal system becomes unreasonable, people stop respecting the law, which only leads to greater lawlessness everywhere.

    1. Tyger – if the kid goes into the juvenile system he is just going to learn new ways to commit crime.

  16. There is definitely a part of society that seems to be disappearing. The glue that holds the individual responsible to its community is dissolving in a cynicism that is being created by these mindless positions of people in positions of authority.

    However much of a wise acre or cynic this student was before the incident, he is now probably more estranged from society. Fourteen year olds are typically sharp, intuitive, and have a better grasp on logic than adults. Charging him with a felony will most likely do more harm than good. A ten day suspension, treating this as a prank is a well deserved punishment. However, placing the child into the criminal justice system is simply stupid.

    This is, again, the irresponsible and negligent America.

  17. Who knows he might have hacked Hillary’s emails. Then what would have happened? I have seen a lot worse with far less with a punishment. The 10 days is a little long, but fair.

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