I am the proud owner of a 570e, T41p, T61p and X61s. And indeed, the T61p is the most Lenovo of the four, and it sucks (huge and hot). The X61s is wonderful (netbook sized and amazing keyboard, CPU, HD, screen and linux compatibility) but it seems that it was IBM designed.
One of my relatives just bought a T400 and his comment was "pretty cool, but the keyboard sucks a bit"
Now, maybe the expensive ones are better ? People do not seem to complain about the X00, do they ?
I would put no restriction on the laptops, and hard restrictions on the school wireless (i.e. whitelist), if there is one.
From my logic, what the students do with their laptops out of the school is the parents responsability, what they do at school is yours.
One of my relatives has Crohn's disease, and by simply restricting her diet to a very limited group of food (i.e. rice, fish, certain fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and no diary, no meat, no spices, no alcohol, no cholocate, no coffee, no citrus, etc.) she does not need to take any med.
Before switching to that diet she was under corticoid, with all the associated side effects.
Every cloud has a silver lining; you should have sold it, and bought titanium.