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Most of the 13 students accused of tinkering with their school-issued laptop computers to download programs and spy on administrators are being offered deals in which the felony charges would be dropped, lawyers and a family member say. In return, the students would perform 15 hours of community service, write an apology, take a class on personal responsibility and serve a few months’ probation, the attorneys said. “The probation department realizes this is small potatoes,” said William Bispels, an attorney representing nearly half the accused students. School district officials and prosecutors did not return phone messages Thursday. The 13 were charged as juveniles with computer trespass and computer theft, both felonies, and could have faced a wide range of sanctions, including juvenile detention. The Kutztown Area School District said it reported the students to police only after detentions, suspensions and other punishments failed to deter them from breaking school rules governing computer usage. But the students, their families and other supporters said authorities overreacted, punishing the students but because they outsmarted the districts technology workers. The school had issued some 600 Apple iBook laptops to every student last fall. Kutztown is about 15 miles west of Allentown, Pa.. The charges allege the students breached security and downloaded forbidden programs, such as the iChat instant messenger. Some students also turned off a remote monitoring function that let administrators see what students were viewing on their screens — and used it to view administrators own computer screens. Bispels said a few students are thinking about refusing the deal because they don’t feel they have broken any laws. But Mike Boland, who represents one student, said his client will likely accept the offer. “It doesn’t require my client to acknowledge he is guilty of anything,” he said. “It’s about as mild as you can go,” agreed James Shrawder, whose 15-year-old nephew was among those offered the deal. “Its more of a face-saving measure.” One student who has had prior dealings with the juvenile probation office was not offered a deal and the case was expected to proceed. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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