Memo Stirs Pot In High School Cheating Scandal
SAN DIEGO -- A blistering e-mail about student cheating from an administrator at Rancho Bernardo High School is angering some students and parents.
The e-mail was written by Rancho Bernardo High School Assistant Vice Principal Keith Koelzer and dated Saturday, April 26. It gives the details of a cheating scandal involving eight students accused of hacking into the school's computer network.
"Our worse technological nightmare has just occurred," Koelzer wrote.
According to Koelzer, the hackers distributed tests to students several days before they were administered and altered grades on student transcripts.
But does the e-mail go too far? In his letter, Koelzer also mentioned the funeral service of a former Rancho Bernardo student who was killed in a car accident several weeks ago. And he questioned the moral character of students.
"Our students need us now more than ever to direct their moral compasses northward," Koelzer said in the e-mail.
The Poway Unified School District is referring all media inquiries about the principal's e-mail to the district's lawyer. Attorney Jack Sleeth told NBC 7/39 that at issue is whether the e-mail violated any student's right to privacy, and the legal issues surrounding potential disciplinary action for those students. He said the student hackers have been suspended while the incident is investigated. Penalties for the students could include expulsion.
All students are required to review and sign the district's Academic Honesty policy and Student Internet Safety and Responsible Use policy, Sleeth said. Violations of the policies could result in disciplinary action, including financial restitution.
Bernard Kohan, a computer security expert with Comentum Corporation, said the school bears a degree of responsibility for not providing enough security for its computer network.
"It's unbelievable. It should be very difficult," he said. "It shouldn't be easy to break into a system if there are enough security protocol in place to prevent anyone from hacking into the system."
The district lawyer would not talk to NBC 7/39 on camera until a technology team can determine the full scope of the cheating scandal.