District officials said there was no way they could let Hammerlund make a profit off public resources.
Morro Bay High School senior Johnny Hammerlund is a budding entrepreneur who used a talent for technology to create his first paid app for smart phones.
The app, intended for other high school students, is simple in concept. It streamlines public information from the high school’s website—such as bell schedules and the cafeteria lunch menu for the day—into an simple format that students can access using their phones or tablet computers wherever they are.
Despite Hammerlund’s good intentions, however, his innovation has created controversy in California’s San Luis Coastal Unified School District. The app is becoming a focal point in deciding how district technology is handled as students become increasingly tech savvy.
Specifically, what happens when a student’s grasp of technology outpaces policies in place to protect district resources?
“It is an interesting scenario of how student initiatives can race ahead of traditional legal doctrines,” said Mark Williams of Fagen, Friedman, and Fulfrost, a law firm based in Los Angeles that specializes in education law, with six offices throughout the state.
Williams said the controversy foreshadows the kind of ed-tech issues school districts will face in coming years.
School administrators say Hammerlund’s access to the district computer server, which he used to retrieve information for the app, created a potential threat to confidential information stored there.
Hammerlund was able to access the district server through his role as the webmaster at the high school—a position he gained by participating in a Regional Occupational Program web design class.
But once officials learned he planned on taking his free app one step further and had begun marketing a paid version of it, his access was cut off.
In fact, the entire school website was temporarily shut down. And the role of webmaster at the high school, which had been filled by students for years, is now in the hands of a teacher.