July 19, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Some, not all searches by teens accused of plotting Harns Marsh shooting blocked by school computers


We’re learning more about what two teens searched on their school laptops before they were arrested for a shooting plot.

Pages of evidence show 13-year-old Connor Pruett and 14-year-old Phillip Byrd studied and searched Columbine extensively.

A lot of that research was done on school laptops. More than 100,000 of their searches were blocked by the school’s filters for being too mature or inappropriate.

Documents obtained by WINK News show how the two teenagers used their Lee County school-issued Chromebooks to search how to buy guns on the black market, how to make a pipe bomb and so much more.

Gene Hoyt, an expert in mobile applications and information systems at FGCU said, “I think the first thing that popped out is the fact that they were researching on how to create a napalm, and you’re talking about military-style items that kids shouldn’t be even researching.”

WINK News had Hoyt look at the documents, 551 pages filled with Connor Pruett’s and Phillip Byrd’s search history. Much of which was blocked by the school’s search filters. “That’s great, but you can’t really block everything,” said Hoyt.

9,500 searches went through. Including ‘Columbine High School shootings’ and ‘how long did the Columbine shooters plan ahead’ and that search on how to make napalm.

But Hoyt said there’s a reason those searches got through. “The more that you tried to isolate down what students are able to see, you’re talking about the functionality of the computer going away, because you would almost have to shut down everything, to cover all the items that he would think that a young kid or kids would be pulling up. I mean, the last thing I would have ever seen a kid looking up was napalm.”

In a statement, the school district said in part that it uses a robust set of safety tools that provides internet filtering at school and at home.

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