Pupils indulge in cyberpranks at school for nerds

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AMERICA'S CLASSROOM pranksters are using computers to download porn, change grades, swap passwords and send threatening e-mail when the teacher isn't looking.

Often, the brightest students are doing the mischief, and school officials are struggling to discipline them.

Seventy-eight per cent of America's public schools today are connected to the Internet.

The naughty students bring in home-made programs to disable school software; install point-and-shoot war games; make counterfeit money; and design scathing sites on the World Wide Web. One New York high school now wants a new code of "nerd discipline".

Students who surf sexually explicit sites, for example, have had to write a research paper on victims of sexual abuse.

Six high schoolers were suspended for up to 10 days last school year for posting a list of more than 300 students on the World Wide Web, and suggestions how each one might die.

But educationists have to be careful. An Ohio school district had to pay pounds 30,000 to a student who set up a Web site from home that made fun of his band teacher - after a judge agreed the high school had violated his right of free speech.

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