East Chicago school reclaims MacBooks for student safety

November 10, 2011 (EAST CHICAGO, Ind.)

A few years back, there was a series of incidents where young kids were robbed for their Starter jackets in Chicago. Now it appears some thieves are interested in going high-tech. How East Chicago Central High School in northwest Indiana has responded has some parents fuming.

"A lot of these kids enjoyed them. My, myself, I can't afford Internet at home for my children," said parent Lourdes Hicks.

Hicks says her two daughters loved that East Chicago's Central High School supplied each of its students with an Apple laptop computer for use at home and school.

"You would definitely see students pushing the envelope in terms of what they were doing with assignments. They'd make iMovies and podcasts," said East Chicago Central High Principal Wendell McCollum.

Each of the laptops is valued at nearly $1,200.

On Tuesday, a teenager from Harvey was charged with threatening to shoot two East Chicago students who were walking home if they didn't hand over their computers.

School administrators decided their students had become targets, so they ordered all the laptops turned in the next day, Wednesday. Lourdes Hicks' daughter forgot hers at home.

"She said, 'Mom, police are taking me home from school to get my laptop,' " said Hicks. "I said, 'Are they reporting it stolen? What's going on?' I said, 'You're not getting in a squad car, if they're not charging you with anything, you have no business getting into a squad car.' "

The school's principal confirms East Chicago police officers assigned to the school drove as many as two dozen students home to retrieve their computers.

"The administration took it upon themselves to take our kids out of school without parental permission, no notification and then you're having them taken in squad cars as if they're criminals," said Hicks.

"We had students who needed to get their MacBooks, and the safest way for that to happen was to have the people who protect and serve take them, our police officers," said McCollum.

In addition to the robbery, police found one of the student laptops for sale on Craigslist. Another was tracked to Mexico.

Sources tell ABC7 that as many as 30 computers are missing under suspicious circumstances, so the school's ambitious program to send every student home with a computer has been scrapped, but they will still be able to use the laptops while they are at school.

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