Some trends are emerging in reviewing the data assembled for the K-12 Cyber Incident Map. One trend involves how K-12 students caught being involved in and/or instigating school cyber incidents are being punished.

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Consider this select sample of stories from 2016 to present:

Do these students understand the consequences of their actions? What would motivate them to risk school expulsion or jail time? Some recent research suggests that teen ‘hackers’ are motivated – not by money or criminal intent – but primarily by moral causes, a desire to tackle technical problems, and to prove themselves to friends.

Note that this trend is occurring against a backdrop of dramatic shortages in qualified cybersecurity professionals – shortages that many experts feel can best be solved by teaching more K-12 students how to hack: “Given today’s cyber threats, we need to embrace hacking as an essential skill for kids to learn in order to keep this country safe in the future.”

Are schools and the police over-reacting? Are our current laws and school policies appropriate to respond to cases of student hacking of school IT systems?

It may be time for a hard look at these questions. What do you think?