The iPads being distributed to St. Paul students by the thousands this school year may help to inspire, but there is nothing to be gained from stealing one.
The district is making clear in a new iPad safety campaign that any device a thief may snatch will be remotely locked, disabled and rendered useless.
Pawnshops also are being put on alert, and asked to call police if they come across an iPad with the sticker saying: “Provided by taxpayers of St. Paul for students of Saint Paul Public Schools.”
Thus far this fall, the district — as part of its new technology initiative — has handed out about 2,400 iPads, and plans to distribute 5,400 more by the end of December. It has yet to see a student lose an iPad or have one stolen, said Idrissa Davis, the district’s deputy chief of technology services.
St. Paul’s iPad program is the largest ever for a state school system, and is being funded by a $9 million annual technology levy approved by voters in 2012. This summer, the district decided to put the devices in the hands of all of its students — beginning with 39 of the district’s 61 school sites this school year.
Officials believe that the devices can help schools tailor learning to individual student needs, plus inspire students to be more engaged in their work.
From the start, however, the district has been sensitive to fears students may be targeted by thieves, and to that end, it is using a $10,000 grant from AT&T to circulate fliers with safety tips for students — and to deliver fliers and posters with the same message to libraries, cellphone stores, shopping malls and coffee shops.
Kate Wilcox-Harris, the district’s assistant superintendent of personalized learning, said last week that each iPad has a serial number assigned to a specific student. The device and the data on it are “personal to that student and useless to anyone else,” she said.
In addition, iPads that fall into the hands of others cannot be reconfigured for their use, under the device’s security features.
Families are encouraged to activate a “Find My iPad” feature that will assist in locating the device if it is misplaced.
The district can communicate with a device, and as such, lock an iPad and wipe the data from it if it is lost or stolen. It cannot, however, track an iPad — or by extension, a student. That is because Apple Inc. prohibits the district from activating the “location services” feature, Davis said.
Nor is the district able to track devices given to teachers and principals.
Whether it should have that right — specifically as it relates to employees — is a subject the district may take up with Apple in the future, Davis said.
For the 2014-15 school year, the district bought an additional 200 iPads to replace those that may be lost, stolen or damaged. While students have yet to lose a device, staff members have not been as fortunate. Three employee iPads have been lost or stolen, officials say.
In each case, the device was disabled within about 24 hours.