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Los Angeles School Cheating Scandal: 11 Students Expelled

By Ken Mandel   |   Wednesday, 29 Jan 2014 04:09 PM

Eleven students were expelled from a Los Angeles-area school Tuesday after a cheating scandal that involved hacking into the district's computer system to alter grades and retrieve exams.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board, located in Newport Beach, Calif., deliberated for hours Tuesday before rendering a decision that was based on the recommendations by the Corona del Mar High School principal and district administration, board President Karen Yelsey said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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"The Board of Education has weighed each of the cases presented this evening on an individual basis and in careful detail," Yelsey said. "We've focused on the cases for hours in closed session. As a Board of Education, we are unanimous in our resolve to ensure the academic integrity of CDM and the district, as well as in delivering justice for the cases before us.

"It is our sincere hope that the speculations and rumors regarding student discipline matters can now be put to rest and for the sake of the school community and all involved, these student discipline matters are considered resolved," she continued.

Six of the students were expelled unanimously, while the others were split 4-3 and 6-1.

The hacking occurred with the use of keylogger, a device that attaches to the back of a computer to record keystrokes.

Several were placed on teachers' computers to steal logins and passwords. The students allegedly received help from private tutor Timothy Lance Lai, 28, who hasn't been seen at the school since mid-December.

Lai provided students with the device and instructions on how to use it, according to police. The kids used the passwords to change grades and access English, science, and history tests, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Yolanda Newton, a Newport Harbor High parent, hoped the trustees would send a message to students who were involved by refusing to let them to transfer to schools within the district.

"This isn't run-of-the-mill cheating," Newton told the LA Times. "This was premeditated, sophisticated, and ongoing."

The district is auditing 52,000 student grades to see how many have been altered this year.

The school is ranked 279th in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Among the school's famous alumni are actress Leslie Mann, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, and "Extra" co-host and Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath.

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