He can’t pass math or English, but a Bonanza, Nev., High School sophomore has mastered the art of using technology to alter his report card. Or so he hoped.
The boy’s mother, J. Fite–their full names are being withheld–couldn’t believe her son’s miraculous turnaround. His grade card showed that her son had pulled in straight A’s for the semester–after posting three D’s in the previous term.
The student may have had a better chance of getting away with the scam, had he not decided to be so ambitious. With a simple check of his official transcripts, Fite discovered that her son had, with the help of a computer scanner, turned his three F’s into A’s.
More checking revealed that those D’s from the previous semester had been F’s, too.
“Parents need to know this [is happening],” said Fite. “My guess is that there’s some kid out there with a computer scanner making a small fortune.”
According to Clark County School District officials, the grade changing scam is a high-tech evolution from the days when students used erasers or White Out to alter report cards.
Now it’s the computer scanner that’s making the job that much easier, while also producing very real looking fakes.
“Eventually the deception will come out,” said Bonanza High School Principal Sue DeFrancesco. “Changing the report card doesn’t change the grade on the mainframe. That’s important.”
But that wasn’t the case two years ago, when a Florida student did gain access to the St. Lucie County school district’s computer system.
Then-15-year-old Jason Shawn Westerman penetrated the district’s computer system from a terminal in the Fort Pierce Westwood High School library, in the process showing district officials just how easy it was to gain access to grades, attendance reports, and addresses of students.
Westerman said the scam was supposed to be a joke, but officials believe that if the information found its way into the wrong hands, the so-called joke could have wound up being much more serious.
Nevada school district officials said their investigation has been limited in scope because the student won’t reveal who actually altered his report card. And even though teachers and administrators are aware of the potential problem, officials say it’s the parents who have the best chance of catching the culprits.
“If this is a worst-case scenario and there’s a ring of children falsifying report cards, it isn’t going to do much except delay the pain until their parents find out,” DeFrancesco said.
Elsewhere in the district, Clark County High School Principal Wayne Tanaka said he reported last year a case similar to the one at Bonanza.
Again, parents discovered that the report card handed over was one that had been scanned and altered on a friend’s home computer.
Leonard Paul, assistant superintendent of secondary education for the Clark County School District, said report card altering is punishable under the district’s disciplinary rules for falsifying documents, which call for at least a required parent conference.
The maximum punishment is suspension or referral to an “opportunity school.” Individual principals make the call and are supposed to consider the student’s disciplinary history.
“The parents in our case punished the student far worse than I could,” said Tanaka. “The father looked at his son and tore up a pair of $120 rock concert tickets he’d gotten him as a reward. He said, ‘Son, you’ve broken my heart,’ and he walked out of the room.”
Paul said he doesn’t think grade altering scams are all that common. “And the bottom line is that the report card isn’t the legal record,” he said. “What’s recorded in the teacher’s grade book is.”
However, that isn’t to say that the district will not reexamine its report card system, though any changes would depend on available funding.
“I’d be lying to you if I said we didn’t have kids who are smart enough to scan a grade report,” said Chaparall High School Principal Bob Chesto. “If parents suspect something, it’s probably true. You want to trust your kids, but with the technology we have, well, these kids are smart.”
Clark County School District
St. Lucie County Schools