Fifty students who attend Arizona's Tucson Magnet High School have been accused of changing grades in what Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez has called, "the largest cheating ring in the school in recent memory."
Most of the students who were accused of being involved were seniors. Now they will not be allowed to be a part of their graduation ceremonies.
"The students are facing the ultimate consequence," SÃ¡nchez said. "Their parents may have sent out graduation invitations, they're planning parties, but the students will not graduate. They have to take the class, they have to pass it the right way."
Every student who was implicated in the manipulation of grades will be required to retake an ordered course to earn the credit for the class. Seniors' graduations will be delayed until those charged have earned the necessary credits. The course will be given during the summer as an in-person course.
The incident occurred when a few students discovered the teacher's password and then began charging a fee to fellow students for manipulating their grades. Avianne Tan, reporting for ABC News, writes that the district stated that its technology services department is working on new protocols that would require teachers to change their passwords more frequently to avoid repeating this type of activity.
Sanchez assured the community that "the acts of the few should not overshadow the achievements of many."
The Associated Press reports that the students who did the cheating were members of a school credit-recovery course and included some juniors. Their deception was discovered when the teacher noticed that grades in the system were different from the ones she had entered. She then reported the errors, according to School District Spokesperson Stefanie Boe.
Since the investigation into the case is not yet complete, district leaders did not explain how much students paid to have their classmates change their grades. The district has not yet decided whether or not law enforcement will be involved.
"There's a right way of doing things — you work hard, you earn the grade and you pass the class," Sanchez said. "And then there's a wrong way, and there are consequences for doing things the wrong way and the students are facing the ultimate consequence.
The juniors who were involved, writes Phil Villarreal for KGUN-TV, have not been told what their consequences will be, but the superintendent said these students would be required to make up the coursework.
Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sanchez, report Maria Hechanova and Craig Reck for Arizona News Now, said the probe began on Thursday, May 12 when the teacher shared her misgivings with the school's principal.
District officials quickly met with the students and their parents. One senior student, Cesar Vidrio, said he was asked by the offending students if he would like to have his grades changed, but he declined. He did not report the incident because of fear of reprisal.
Norma Quintero, also a senior, said she agreed with the disciplinary actions of the district, as did mother Leigh Ann Jimenez, who added that she believed the students should be criminally charged.
Police Sgt. Pete Duncan pointed out that the Tucson Police Department would not be involved in the incident unless the Tucson United School District contacted the department.