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Did everyone see this?

Student hacker blames teacher

By Nick Provenza
Seattle Times assistant metro editor

A 15-year-old student at Elma High School swears he only
did what his teacher asked.

The school administration says he broke the rules.

Authorities say he broke the law.

Dad says the whole thing stinks.

The student, Aaron Lutes, was booted from his sophomore computer class at
the 760-student high school and is appealing a five-day suspension for
hacking into a classroom computer's security software and disabling it.

He also was hauled off to the Elma police station and held briefly for
investigation of unauthorized use of a computer to access government

All involved agree young Lutes did not gain access to any files and caused
no damage.

The Lutes family and the district also acknowledge that Lutes'
computer-science teacher, Giovanni Colombo, told students they'd get a
reward from the software company if they cracked the security system and
that Colombo wanted a 10 percent cut of that reward.

But here's the rub: How serious was Colombo when he said it?

While adults in this Grays Harbor County town might have detected a
tongue-in-cheek quality in the teacher's words, it's clear not all
15-year-old boys would. Elma School Supt. Bill Myhr, duly noting that the
issue was confidential, did say that while some students took the
challenge seriously, it wasn't intended that way.

"My son had lots of plans for living the good life (from the reward
money)," said Aaron Lutes' father, Mike. "I can see an adult questioning
what the teacher said, but not a bunch of 15-year-old kids."

What happened to Aaron was unfair, he said, and he wants the suspension

"My son accomplished what the teacher had asked him to do," Lutes said.
"When he told the teacher about it ... he expected praise and a reward.
... The next day, Aaron was hauled out of class and reprimanded."

On Dec. 5, Lutes used a computer in Colombo's class to bypass a security
system designed to keep students from going where they aren't supposed to
go. He did it on only one computer and quickly logged out, his father

Teacher Colombo couldn't be reached for comment, but someone answering the
phone at his home described the whole thing as silly.

Myhr said there are "other aspects" to the story, but the school district
has chosen "not to bring them out at this time."

He did acknowledge that Aaron Lutes was disciplined last year for using a
school computer to call up inappropriate Web sites.

Aaron's father said the district is being unreasonable, and that's why the
five-day suspension is being appealed.

"The teacher was probably trying to get the students interested in
computers and invited them to do it," he said. "He gave them a challenge,
probably thinking they couldn't do it and didn't think of the
ramifications of what might happen if they did do it."

The security software company has said it isn't aware of any reward
for anyone hacking into its software.

The prosecutor handling the case in the Grays Harbor County juvenile-court
system couldn't be reached for comment, but the Luteses said yesterday
they were told earlier this week any criminal charge against Aaron would
be dropped.

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