School Teacher Accusing a Student And an Open Source Software Project of Breaking The Law

last updated in Categories Linux, Linux desktop, News, Windows, windows vista

Wow.. a completely ignorant teacher. This clearly demonstrate problem faced by GNU/Linux in class room.

A teacher (from Austin, TX) came to students and confiscated the Linux Live CDs. Next, she wrote an angry email to HeliOS’s project founder, Ken Starks:

After confiscating the disks I called a confrence with the student and that is how I came to discover you and your organization. Mr. Starks, I am sure you strongly believe in what you are doing but I cannot either support your efforts or allow them to happen in my classroom. At this point, I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful. These children look up to adults for guidance and discipline. I will research this as time allows and I want to assure you, if you are doing anything illegal, I will pursue charges as the law allows. Mr. Starks, I along with many others tried Linux during college and I assure you, the claims you make are grossly over-stated and hinge on falsehoods. I admire your attempts in getting computers in the hands of disadvantaged people but putting linux on these machines is holding our kids back.

This is a world where Windows runs on virtually every computer and putting on a carnival show for an operating system is not helping these children at all. I am sure if you contacted Microsoft, they would be more than happy to supply you with copies of an older verison of Windows and that way, your computers would actually be of service to those receiving them

Read on ken’s reply: Linux – Stop holding our kids back

Perhaps, some one need to educate the teacher and point out that Linux is being used by governments, private & public corporations, and millions of embedded home appliances are powered by Linux.

Update – Dec., 12 2008: This matter is now closed and the student did get back Linux CDs after the class.

Updated for accuracy!

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

81 comment

    1. I disagree with your comment sir, I’m a foreign languages teacher at Barranquilla, Colombia; I use open source software such as Gnu/Linux Ubuntu with all of its tools in order to create a better atmosphere when teaching english or french at the language institute.

  1. if i were in the community, i would call the school board and urge her dismissal. what type of uneducated hacks do they hire? is she even good at her job? this is a slap in the face to education in general. it shows the lack of quality in amarican school staff and administration and is an embarrassment for the district.

    maybe she should take the time to educate herself in MODERN day computing. the fact that linux runs on thousands of servers, including the web infrastructure she uses every day seems to escape her.

  2. Her thoughts are along the lines of “If it is on servers, it can’t be free” or simply that “there is no such thing as a free lunch”

  3. Huh. Texas. What other guiding, bumbling, grinnin’, pigheaded, mistaken figure do we know that hails from Texas?? It all makes sense now.

  4. Honey and vinegar, bridges and walls…we don’t have to alienate the marching morons. Convert them, and resist the urge to be self righteous ass hats. A civil response and a seriously informative meeting would do us and the Austin SD a lot more good in the long run.

  5. Oh stop it Linux freaks. The teacher is clearly uninformed and wrong until the last bit – that nearly everyone else uses Windows. Schools are not there to champion your, or anyone elses cause but to provide a solid foundation for children. By not understanding Linux and other open source software and not making children aware of their existence and potential benefits then this teacher has failed in this aspect. However – the kids’ future employers will, by a vast majority, not be using Linux so it perfectly acceptable to teach the kids Windows.

  6. Yes, I’m sure that ACTUALLY happened…..NOT.

    More likely it’s just another case of Stark and his never-ending press whoring.

  7. I’m calling shenanigans on this letter. This is a fantasy of an epic battle between the freedom loving Linux users and the draconian freedom destroying Microsoft users who simply cannot tolerate freedom because they gave up the freedom when they put on that suit and tie. Yeah, right, only someone who is completely deluded would be believe this. I love Linux and the letter almost got me because it starts off as being plausible but soon unravels with such lines as “I along with others tried Linux in college.” What? That is so stupid that only a fool would believe this was real.

  8. Those who can’t do…teach! Those that can’t teach….teach math! Those that can’t so anything…apparently are sent to Austin!

  9. Most teachers these days are as dumb as a bag of hammers. I had to work with many of them in my previous career (now retired). The problem is, they don’t KNOW they are dumb; they think they are quite wise in the ways of the world. This particular letter may very well be a hoax, but this is precisely the type of thing one might expect from today’s teachers.

  10. Frak 12.10.08 at 6:06 pm
    [cough] Liberal [/cough]
    …guess you didn’t hear about the big win and the fracturing of the neocons. Liberal isn’t a dirty word anymore. Turn off the Faux News.

  11. While she obviously has no idea what she’s talking about, it’s obvious that one could make such a mistake. Remember: most of the people reading this know what Linux is, and a good number of them likely have a good understanding of it. The general populous, however, barely knows that Linux exists. This teacher was merely going on what she knew; 1) That nothing is ever free (not always true, but a good rule of thumb) and 2) There’s stories on the news of students hacking into computers at school and wreaking havoc, and this kid’s got some kind of weird program or something that could do who-knows-what. She acted in the most logical way for her situation and knowledge, and for anyone to assume that teachers in Texas, or Conservatives, or any group that people will associate this story with are all so ill-informed is just wrong. Just fill the person in on what Linux really is, and the teacher will be just fine.

    Note: I love how they typed “I tried Linux in college” as if it were some kind of drug.

  12. most schools I know use macs actually. I like how she decided to take the time to write an e-mail before taking the time to do research. Jumping to conclusions before knowing anything is exactly the thing kids should be learning NOT to do.

  13. SO what pigheaded guy hails from Texas that you know of?
    I mean…I know of the WIFE of a pigheaded man that hails from Texas…
    Oh THAT’S right! Bush has a house in Texas, obviously he’s from their, of course!
    The Bush family all hails from the Northern New England area, Bush himself was born in Connecticut. Not Texas.
    Bush’s wife however, is Texan.
    Texas isn’t full of ignorant people and cowboys, want that? Go more West.

  14. A less than ethical person might query the school system’s directory for persons with the first name of Karen who work at a middle school like this…

    Last Name First Name Job Title Schools/Departments

    That would be bad.

  15. tomaz 12.10.08 at 7:07 pm

    Is too much to ask that children be even somewhat exposed to Linux/FreeBSD? Perhaps it would encourage more IT departments moving over to those platforms instead of Windows down the road, and would also further the evolution of the operating systems, since there is more interest in it overall.

    Just a thought.

    1. And think of the MONEY the schools could save..I bet a lot of the schools are running Windows XP,good ole Microsoft is discontinueing XP, guess we will have to fork out more money for Microsofts latest crappy Operating System..

  16. Here in the Netherlands we can use whatever OS we like on our own laptops. As long as it gets the job done. Some teachers actually try to help to get some things working (like lejos for lego nxt) and are open to sugestions for software being used.

    Pirated software is prohobited, but they know they can’t stop it from being used, so they rather have us using free/gnu software. And the extra efford it takes to get things working is usefull, because we learn from it.

  17. As someone who wanted to be a teacher I find it sad but am not at all surprised by the response. I would allow students to have a .doc file and when they said “I don’t have MSWord” I would respond; “Go to, or if you need the install file and have a flash drive I can get it for you.” Many of my fellow educators would use Windows because it was “easy” and accessible, many wouldn’t even use Apple.

    Hopefully the teacher returned the discs, although that shouldn’t be a problem for the student. Maybe the teacher decided to dabble in the drug of Linux again.
    One can only hope.

  18. Let me guess, she voted for Obama, Thinks Carter is one of the best presidents ever drives a Prius and wants more “sharing of the pot” when it comes to wealth EXCEPT in ‘robinhood’ where rich districts have to give to other districts outside their city.

  19. Do not judge until you have walked in their shoes. Teaching is an overwhelming job that many quit within 5 weeks. To assume a teacher is an expert at everything is absurd! To assume a teacher is an expert at something is a little closer to being real. Teachers generally have a passion they want to share and it is rarely possible with our one size fits all public education. Students generally have a passion and it is almost never pursued because of our one size fits all public education.
    Where would we be without teachers?

    Would you do it? Could you do it?

  20. Too bad the school boards don’t wise up and use linux in the classrooms. Think of the huge pile of cash they can save the taxpayer, and even better, each student can have their own copy of linux at home, for free, and tinker in its guts if they wish! The Europeans do this now!

  21. “�guess you didn�t hear about the big win and the fracturing of the neocons. Liberal isn�t a dirty word anymore.”

    It isn’t…? Your boy is from Illinois isn’t he…? Didn’t something just happen there of note?

    You think Bush was bad? Just wait until The Kenyan gets going.

  22. lol



    i pity the kids!!!

    pls post the followup of the event…i m desperate to read the followup..

  23. AISD uses Linux. At least one school uses Linux exclusively, but thanks, all of you for tearing down our school system when you know as little as the alleged Karen.

  24. Stephani/#29

    Maybe, just MAYBE, they shouldn’t be teaching if they can’t handle the pressure. I teach adults, and let me tell you something, it’s no cake-walk. Go away with your bleeding heart cry about how “hard” it is to be a teacher.

    This story is about a LYING THIEF of a “teacher” who probably couldn’t pour piss out of a boot unless instructions were written on the heel.

  25. This person is symbolic of stupidity in humanity. People are entitled to be ignorant, we are all ignorant on one subject or another. What baffles me is when they attempt to talk, or worse complain about something they have absolutely no knowledge on.

    It’s also quite upsetting that she has no knowledge of any other operating system outside the absolute nightmare that is Windows. I’d love to see her bring legal charges against the US government, 60% of all mobile phone manufacturers, over half of all embedded device manufacturers, Apple who use a Linux-like Unix kernel, Dell who sell some of their systems with Linux, all of the hundreds of Linux distros and developers, the millions (or billions if we include phones and embedded devices, probably including herself) of Linux users worldwide.

    Those who cannot do, teach.

  26. Don’t be so vitriolic.
    This is an excellent opportunity to educate the people who have the attention of future generations.
    Don’t waste it.

  27. mark/#43

    No. You see, when confronted with stupidity on this scale, only extreme vitriol and shame-making are acceptable responses. Without a public acknowledgment that this “teacher” is dumb as a box of rocks, this type of behavior will only increase.

    You must stomp out stupidity as quickly as you can, in the most extreme way possible. The better course of action is to fire the LYING THIEF and ensure that the next person in line understands they don’t get to intimidate/humiliate someone when they don’t know all the facts.

  28. man i would love being that student, it will give me my so wanted revenge against stupid teachers. At least my teachers understand the importance of linux(they don’t use it, but at least let me work on it, i feel very lucky)

  29. She is lucky i wasn’t that student, it will give another excuse for my project on “Stupidity Teachers”. At least the mines are smart enough to understand Linux(they don’t use it tough, but let me work on it, i feel very lucky).

  30. Re: Karen at AISD, she is the very embodiment of why we choose to home school. If you want to beat the curiosity, creativity and ability to freely think out of a school aged child, there’s no quicker way than to put them in today’s average public school system. Something new? Different? Something I don’t know? Wow, I should really look into that! Nah, it’ll never happen. Too ‘risky’, too ‘off the beaten path’, too ‘dangerous’. Too ‘not what everyone else is doing’. Just too ‘threatening’. Sheep, anyone? Line ’em up. “That’s right, now you just stand here and wait, someone will come along to tell you what to do and think in just a few minutes.”

    And as for Stephani (response #29)–she didn’t know how hard it was to BE a teacher? She wasn’t aware of the difficulties, long hours, and the high rate of teachers who flee the profession? Any marginally intelligent person who has paid attention to the declining and desperate state of education in the U.S . in the last 20-or-so years should have known exactly what they were facing while earning that teaching degree. I agree that no teacher should be expected to be an “…expert on everything”, and that the stresses of teaching can be overwhelming–but a teacher should not punitively act until fully informed.

    And yes, I am a teacher, and yes, we use open source software.

  31. Hey Frak,

    I assume that you’re assuming this tracher is a liberal becasue she is from Autsin, which is supposedly the most liberal city in Texas. I strongly disagree. I surmise, based on the teahcers blatant disbelief that any product or service could not be free, that this particular teacher has been so brainwashed by capitalism she can’t be anyhting but a conservative… REPUBLICAN
    OH and btw since she is an idiot and lives in Texas, she is a Republican by default.

  32. Let us not forget that, as a group, students who enroll in ed schools have the lowest aggregate SAT scores of any profession. So your chances of hitting the jackpot in the intellectual ghetto sweepstakes are pretty good. It is possible that Karen can learn about free software, and perhaps even about computers that run free programs.

  33. If this is real and not just a hoax, that “teacher” and the Austin School Board will get an International Bonehead Award. If anybody has a link to a regular news site for verification, please contact me or post it here.

    However, I am also considering giving the Linux community a Bonehead Award too, for not educating the School Boards and teachers about Linux and Open, and about how much money each district is wasting. All it would take is one nice site that ‘splains it all in small and simple words, and a member of a local LUG to answer questions for an evening. A little bit of pro-active education would go a long way, if it is applied at the top.

    Have FUN!

  34. Ignorance: it’s a problem. Don’t be too eager to attack others, especially without a well informed understanding of the circumstances. I agree that the teacher was wrong in confiscating the software. She should be informed about open source and probably should apologize to the child for her misguided behavior. However, the hateful tone throughout this response thread is disappointing. Particularly those who support open source, what message are you sending to readers who are new to this arena? Open Source: Join or get “stomped out”. You’re embarrassing the rest of us and subverting the spirit of open source. Be helpful and useful in promoting change for the better, not jerks.

  35. Not all teachers are stupid.

    Not all teachers can’t “do” anything else as when reader stated. I worked as a salesman previously and won several awards as Salesman of the Year. However, I decided I wanted to teach when the economy got bad. I’m pretty sure I won’t get laid off!

    However, many teachers are stupid, especially when it comes to computers.

    This teacher was stupid!

  36. I’d also like to add as a computer teacher, I think schools SHOULD use Linux, Open Office, Scribus, Gimp, and Inkscape. We’d save TONS of money!

    Instead, we use XP, Microsoft Office, no program in the world of Photoshop, and Frontpage.

    Some teachers are restricted by their school board and administration rules.
    I can’t install software or change my clock on my school desktop computer!

    So don’t say that all teachers are stupid and unaware of Open Source software.

  37. There seems to be lots of noise about a teacher giving dumb cows a bad name.
    It’s just empty noise, though. Why the hostility?

    Are you trying to distract from the fact, that you can’t point to a site that explains Open Source and Linux in a way, that teachers like her can understand?

    Hostile heckling and pontificating is just going to alienate you.
    What is needed is pro-active education, a helping hand, and a more diplomatic atmosphere on most of the forums.
    Have FUN!

  38. Wow, my brain hurts from reading this letter. Does she not realize she is using Linux the free operating system everyday she surfs the web?!

    This is just crazy someone should send this lady a couple of the GPL. Then she should have to make an apology to the kid, and her class. Someone should also bring charges on her for stealing the kids cd’s.

    If this isn’t a hoax, which I certainly hope it is, we have taken a few steps backwards. We need to do more to promote Linux as whole. A simple way to get the word out there would be for website owners to put a “Powered by Linux” button on their sites, I think that would go a long way! Just my humble opinion.

    Peace, love and road hockey!!

  39. In a way the teacher is correct: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
    How many of you have worked to improve the Linux operating system, or are you letting IBM, Red Hat and others take over the “free” operating system? Look at how much money IBM puts into this “free” software, you can see this at the site and look for their 10X statement.
    Sure Microsoft makes money off their software, why shouldn’t they? (And yes I work for Microsoft.)
    Do you expect to work for free? Oh, wait, do you do volunteer work on the Linux kernel? When was the last time you provided your work or intellectual property to the Linux community?
    Slam Microsoft, but to make comments about hard working teachers like:
    “LOL , thats why he is teacher because he don’t know anything .” Shows little respect for the teaching community, these are people who work hard, care for their students and do a lot of volunteer work for their community. What about you?
    In the real world there is truely no such thing as a free lunch.

  40. WHAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THAT IS F***ing hillarious!
    If i was that kid, i would have sued that teacher for being a brainwashed ass.

  41. This is the type of thing that really holds Linux back. But that is the kind of teacher that really holds younger kids back.

  42. L0000000000L!!!

    Let me send her a copy of Revolution OS (2001 documentary movie).
    Hope they realize facts about Open Source and it’s Freedom and Potential.

  43. That lady needs to be dismissed, her teaching license revoked and she needs to be barred from being within 1000 of the grounds of any educational activity, and that means all of them incl. universities and community colleges.

    I hope GNU/Linux along with the parents went to court and recovered the real and personal assets of that lady including all of her future earnings, for the arrogance in her official capacity she displayed.

  44. I’ve never understood it. A teacher can be a genius yet, at the same time, be a complete simpleton (as this article suggests).

  45. I wonder if shes ever tried it herself, calling Microsoft and kindly asking them for 95′ cds.

  46. thats why teachers have taught kids to use macs. Because they know nothing about computing. Just like most mac users. O look its so easy a dumbass monkey could use it. It must be better.

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