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Boy gets punished by teacher for using Linux in school

I’ve just read this simply hard to believe story about a boy who was punished by the teacher simply because he was using Linux in school. The teacher was thinking that the boy’s use of Linux was an illegal activity. The teacher believed that concept of free software does not exist.

Wow! We should really talk about Linux more to the “outside world” more often. The teachers should be on the top of the list! I wouldn’t want my children getting educated that Linux is an illegal thing.

The story didn’t just stop there. The teacher, simply named Karen, goes on to email Kenny Starks of HeliOS Linux, “Mr Starks, I am sure you strongly believe in what you are doing but I cannot either support your efforts or allow them to happen in my classroom. At this point, I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free, and spreading that misconception is harmful. These children look up to adults for guidance and discipline. I will research this as time allows and I want to assure you, if you are doing anything illegal, I will pursue charges as the law allows.”

Starks, of course, defended Linux and said, “First off, if there was even the slightest chance that I was doing something illegal, it would not have been done. To think that I would involve my kids in my ‘illegal’ activities is an insult far beyond outrage. You should be ashamed of yourself for putting into print such nonsense.”


Ken has posted an update about the situation on his HeliOS blog. It looks like there have been some quick reactions on both parts and it seems that they are now communicating more to resolve the issue.

In my opinion, the teacher should have not made some unwarranted “illegal activity” insinuations outright and made some time to check it out before outbursting in that kind of an email.

I also tip my hat to Ken for having the humility to apoligize to mistakes he has made on his part and for having an uncomprising stand not to reveal the identity of the teacher.

Gerry Ilagan

Gerry Ilagan is into mobile apps and WordPress development at @speeqs. He loves to write about electronics, the Internet of Things, mobile phones, and #crazyideas.



I hope she was not teaching a computer class 😉


My questions about this:

1. I’d never heard of HeliOS before this, and now that I’ve looked it up I see that it’s a distro for the Playstation 3. If the boy was demonstrating this at school, what’s a game console doing there anyway?

2. Was this actually legal? Is there anything in Sony’s EULA that would void the warranty or claim some infringement if another OS was installed? Does the OS provide codecs which aren’t legal for distribution in the US?

3. Allowing kids to hand out home-burned CD’s at school might not be such a great idea. Would the school go under task if a customized distro included a keylogger or remote webcam server?

4. Does anyone but me think that Stark’s response was reactionary and over the top?

I believe that according to the report, the teacher didn’t handle this all that well. But the community feedback I’m seeing on this is quite sad, too.


Gerry, thanks for the update. I helped to see that Stark followed this through and worked with the teacher to come to some understanding. It’s painful to see the wrath of some bigoted Linux users come down on one person. I hope that some good comes out of the situation in that it spurs on discussion and gets people to find out more about Free Software.

This situation makes me think that the good people that have devoted their time to develop Free Software have been victims of their own marketing, or lack thereof. People need to understand that the software *has already been paid for* by the authors. The authors of ongoing-maintained software are getting value back from it either through user feedback to increase the quality of their product, or by using it as a form of advertising for paid-for products and services.

Here’s hoping for more marketing tools to become available that are positive in their approach. The people making money from association with free software should spend more on public awareness.


I think this taught us of the need to communicate “outside of the community” a lot more more than anything else. Marketing “the choice of using open source software” should be everyone’s priority. It can be a simple blog or something more elaborate like a full marketing plan for the whole open source.

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