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Transcript and college admission fraud at Paly

Original post made by Future former Paly parent, Adobe-Meadows, on Feb 19, 2014

Someone, maybe the Weekly, needs to investigate the following news. As the honest parents of an honest Paly 2014 senior who is being potentially cheated by fellow students in his college admissions right now, we are thoroughly dejected and disgusted.

Posted by watcher, a resident of Addison School
2 hours ago

"@ future former parent & no name -

One Paly student was recently caught altering her grades. She had been doing this for 2 years. She did not originate the means to do this and it has happened an unknown number of times. Comparison of teacher grade books with current transcripts sent to college admission offices show that some grades had been inflated more than once. Skelly refused to expel her & gave her a 1 week suspension.

PAUSD has evidence that this practice is not unique to this student & has been happening for at least 2-3 years. Where is the follow-up investigation of this criminal fraud? All transcripts sent for fall 2014 college admissions need to be rechecked & corrected. There are undoubtedly some recent Paly grads who won't succeed at their chosen colleges because they were admitted based on falsified transcripts showing a higher performance record than is true. Ask the registrar, ask the principal, ask Skelly, who may be removing himself just in time to escape some legal issues. Paly has done everything possible to squelch this, including not notifying PAPD, in order to avoid a nationwide academic scandal which will rightfully damage the school's reputation. I cannot believe that the board doesn't know.

Steps are underway to prevent this from happening in the future, but this must be dealt with openly & everyone should know. Criminal charges for all participants are appropriate. It is grossly unfair to honest students. It is grossly unfair to honest parents. It is unfair to the teachers. It's an unconscionable reward for heinous behavior which undermines any ethical standards. Tell us again how great Paly schools are? Would you like to buy a high-speed rail system?"

This was posted on the following thread:
Web Link

Comments (40)

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Posted by parent2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:00 pm


Future former,

You made a good point in the other thread

"It is unbelievable that PAUSD did not notify colleges regarding the doctored grades. The potential college admission for this student should have been rescinded, rightfully so. I guess maybe they were worried that all Paly grades would be considered suspicious if they reported that one student. "

Student disciplinary actions are probably within the school's control but if PAUSD did not disclose this to the schools, that would probably be fraud on the part of everyone involved. As far as criminal charges for the student, it may depend on her age, but fraud for adults and so many in this case would not be a joking matter.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:14 pm

How do you know how the child was disciplined? That information is confidential. Are you relying on rumor, gossip, etc. although God knows nobody in Palo Alto partakes in those practices.


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Posted by In the know
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Future former Paly parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm

If this was the first time I heard such rumors, I would not believe them either. Unfortunately, I heard something very similar from a very different source, and this really has my attention now.

I know my kid will be OK regardless. However, I still find this very disheartening.


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Posted by paly mom
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 10:01 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by parent2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Future former,

This may all be a bad joke

@watcher on the other thread claims to be "in the know", so it's probably the same person who just used the handle to repeat what sounds like an intended rumor.

The TS moderator should just take this entire thread down, and if they ever find out anything, it will come back.




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Posted by Future former Paly parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm

I wish I could say more but won't be able to do so until after this class graduates in May. I don't want my honest son to be thrown into this all. Unfortunately, I don't think it's a joke at all.


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Posted by paparent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 8:29 am

Doesn't the high school send the transcript directly to the college? That way it is not possible for any student to alter the transcript. I thought that was how it was done.


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Posted by Future former Paly parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 20, 2014 at 9:04 am

@paparent

If someone manages to hack into a school's computer system, the grades can presumably be manipulated before they get into any transcript.


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Posted by X-files
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 20, 2014 at 9:17 am

[Post removed due to unverifiable and potentially defamatory information.]


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Posted by Lost Generation
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

I have been hearing about this for over five years, and originally chalked it up to rumour. More recently, I attributed it to racism and xenophobia, as well as economic jealousy of native-born Caucasian parents.

However, in the last six months I have read similar accounts of similar frauds committed in high pressure high schools elsewhere in Silicon Valley and New England ( as reported by the NY tTimes and the Wall St Journal). Apparently, the pressure, fear of shaming or being disowned by some parents, fear of never being able to live an affluent lifestyle, etc, have some students willing to do ANYTHING to get into a top university, armed with scholarships.

Many parents in communities locally and in New England have given their children the ultimatum of "MD or PhD", and nothing less ( as explained to me by another parent from another country).

What happens when there are "too many chiefs and not enough Indians"? What about students who do not WISH to be MDs or PhDs? Many of us have had the displeasure of having a doctor or professor who never wanted the career they are in, obviously dislike it, but console themselves with the knowledge that their parents are properly pleased. How long can one continue in that capacity?

It is not just about all the people who are cheated out of higher education , but also about cheating one's self!


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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

I have been reading this thread but stayed out of it until now because most of what is said is unsubstantiated rumor, although I tend to feel that there is probably a lot of truth in it particularly as I have heard similar elsewhere.

But I do want to echo the thought that Lost Generation brought into this discussion.

Like everyone else on this subject, I am a product of my education. I look back on it as part of who I am and although I can find good aspects as well as bad aspects of what it was and what it was like living through it, it has certainly made me an honest person and given me a moral standing to live by.

My thoughts are that those who may be getting away with dishonesty, plagiarism, grade manipulation, even attempting to get teachers to change a poor grade, are doing themselves an ultimate disservice. If they can get away with it as teenagers in high school, what is it teaching them for the future? If they do it in high school, then they will try it in college and ultimately in the work place? What will that do for all of us if our future professionals do not have ethics or a code of conduct to live by.

By teaching kids that they can get away with it, or can be excused in any way, we are teaching them that it is ok to cheat, that if they can do it now in their high school careers, they can do it in their future academic careers, their professional careers, and probably in their personal and private lives too.

Is this the type of adult we want to be producing? I say stop it in the bud before permanent damage is done to the people involved.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I would hope that the PAUSD Board will issue a statement on this either confirming or denying that grade hacking has taken place and, if it has, what is being done both to correct the manipulated records and to secure the system from further intrusions.


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Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:46 am

When this happened at Los Altos High a few years ago, the school did notify all of the colleges that the student had applied to. It is part of the Common Application's Mid-Year Report and Final Report about a student to update if there have been any disciplinary issues. A week-long suspension for falsifying grades would certainly qualify as an item that must be reported.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:56 am

I'm sorry - but if you hack the system and change your grades, you are DONE in my book. Expulsion, not suspension.


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Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2014 at 11:36 am

Is there any proof to any of this, or is it all just idle gossip, rumor, and speculation? I do not see a single source cited anywhere for this at any time. It's irresponsible of the Weekly to allow postings like this. You are removing posts and comments yet you allow idle rumor-mongering as a main topic? This is a joke.


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Posted by no name
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Sadly, it's not a bad joke. I do not know about any incidents prior to this current academic year, however. I wish Future former paly parent and I could have coffee. I also wish that all of the parents in this town were more like Paly Parent.

It seems to me that the superintendents are often more concerned with public opinion and avoiding lawsuits than they are with "justice" in situations like this, and as a result kids get away with things they shouldn't get away with, unfortunately.

It would help of course if parents didn't hire attorneys to help their children evade consequences. If parents were willing to let their children suffer a little and learn their lessons, the district could handle disciplinary situations more fairly. And if parents would stop obsessing about their kid's grades, stop harassing teachers about grades they don't agree with, and were willing to let their kids go to the kinds of colleges that are in line with their kid's work ethic and abilities instead of pressuring them to go to Stanford (just a hypothetical example), perhaps the kids wouldn't be so driven to cheat.

People should be asking what the IT department has done to prevent transcript forgery from happening again and what the school has done to check current seniors' transcripts for authenticity.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 20, 2014 at 2:38 pm

@CPD, is an accusation sufficient cause for expulsion, or does the student get tried by a jury of twelve peers?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Someone who hacks into another person's computer could be punished by a number of different crimes, depending on the circumstances. The law punishes hacking under the computer crime statutes. These crimes carry penalties ranging from a class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both) to a class B felony (punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both). The law also punishes unauthorized access to a computer or computer network, with penalties ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a class D felony (punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both)."

"Hacking is both a federal and state crime. For the state of California, computer crimes are covered under Section 502 of the California Penal Code."


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Posted by parent2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm

no name,

"If parents were willing to let their children suffer a little and learn their lessons, the district could handle disciplinary situations more fairly."

In a criminal situation, it would be advisable to have a lawyer, and I would think the justice system would owe a student that right even if they could not afford it, irrespective of guilt. They do so for adults.

But it sounds like this never went to the police, so lawyers were avoided?


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Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 20, 2014 at 3:03 pm

"the colleges WERE notified. The student WAS expelled. The police were not called because at least one of our superintendents did not want them involved. The district is more concerned with public opinion and avoiding lawsuits than they are with "justice" in situations like this, and as a result kids get away with things they shouldn't get away with, unfortunately. " - this was written on the English lane thread.

The punishment from the district seems appropriate to me - expulsion and reporting to colleges. The student clearly made a mistake and their life will certainly be altered. Do you really feel that they should go to jail? Given the state of jails and criminal behavior in general? Keep in mind this is a MINOR. Our students are still learning. Teenagers do VERY dumb things. This clearly is a HUGE mistake but do you really feel that the person should have their entire life ruined? A felony conviction would do just that. I actually appreciate that our district did not pursue a felony conviction. The student will certainly be punished - expulsion and no 4 year college option seem like a reasonable consequence.

I would be equally worried about our IT dept. How does this happen? At this point, I have very little confidence in our PAUSD's IT dept.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 20, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In California an 18 year old is legally an adult, NOT a minor.

If you break the law then you should be prepared for the consequences.

If even one student is properly prosecuted then it is much less likely that others will attempt to change their records.


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Posted by parent2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm

PV Parent,

"I actually appreciate that our district did not pursue a felony conviction."

I agree after reading the jail time and fines involved. If the schools would have sent this kid to jail, it probably would have been kept confidential anyway.

The holes in IT are a different matter, and some sort of audit and security report is in order.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am stunned that people calling themselves "parents" do not believe that criminal activity should be prosecuted.

Quit coddling your kids because life in the real world will not.


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Posted by parent2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Peter,

We do not know if the student was an adult or a MINOR. If the student was a minor, it does change things, even legally. Even if though, you apparently don't know how dumb "adult" 18 year olds can be. A hacking charge with JAIL is not exactly easy to dispense.

This is not "coddling" it's also about having some judgement about a student.

This kid apparently did get caught, and was expelled. We hope they learned their lesson. I am more worried about an incompetent IT system which can sly by without any consequence at all.







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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 6:06 pm

The thing that nobody is acknowledging is that although this may be done through a student account, it is quite possible and even likely that it was a parent who used the student's account to get into the system. Many kids are learning from their parents that it is OK to cheat. Many kids have very little say in what their parents are doing in their name.

The child may suffer from the cheating, but it may not be them with their fingers on the keyboard. I would at least give a 17 year old the benefit of the doubt. I think the parents of any cheater should be investigated to some extent also.


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Posted by Frustrated parent of Class of 2013
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 20, 2014 at 7:57 pm

This is a crime, police should be involved. If Skelly has suspended the student for a week, he or the district must have proofs. I am surprised the district, Skelly and staffs who have been involved in this investigation think that they can get away from it. The district should let the community knows what and why they determined this is an isolated case? How was the investigation perform? By who?

We have so many problems with this Student System but among them all, security breach is the worst. How can we even sure grades have only been altered for Class of 2014? This is just ONE case they caught, well technically, the university did.

The district has invested so much money in this system, even hired a full-time contractor for over 3 years to make sure things are working correctly (obviously it still doesn't), you can already imagine how much the system is lacking.



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Posted by a better community
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2014 at 8:13 pm

@Palo Verde Parent

You seem to know a fair amount about this particular situation, yet you argue that the cheater is a MINOR and ought not to be subject to consequences. That claim troubles me. Lying and cheating over the course of several years is not simply a "VERY dumb" thing to do, but a felonious act.

As the parent of four, I won't stand for your characterization of teenagers. Most teenagers are moral people. The individual who purposely and persistently altered his/her transcript is not.


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Posted by another paly mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 9:15 pm

@ Frustrated parent of Class of 2013

Yes, this is a felony and police should be involved. We need to know if there are other students involved.

@ Future former

Not only Skelly, district CTO, also leaving the district at a perfect time. Don't you think?


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Posted by Rats, sinking ship
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Feb 20, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Ann Dunkin was the Tech Director and she was terrible. She was the one who brought in Infinite Campus, one of the most unusable student information systems around. It is still terrible to this day. She had no coherent vision for PAUSD, but that wasn't all her fault, Skelly's default endorsement of the alleged site-based management was also to blame. I don't know all the reasons or the one reason why Skelly was compelled to announce his resignation, but I would like the Weekly to ask him or the board if he is able to invoke the 18-month clause in his contract in which is is to be paid around $450,000, or if there is a separate financial agreement. The problem with Skelly was that he was never fully open and honest in his communication with the board and public. He would apologize as if that would forgive the omission of facts and details, but that is not the same as honesty. Either way, he had lost half of the 2005 administrators after a few years, and he lost most of the other half by 2013. Dunkin was one of the latest. The Weekly should follow up on these questions. The public has a right to know and I don't think we can depend on Tabitha Hurley.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:41 am

> Quit coddling your kids because life in the real world will not.

They do it precisely because our contemporary world rewards dishonesty and corruption, otherwise why would this be happening ... open your eyes!


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Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2014 at 1:28 am

Bru is a registered user.

When my Dad went to University in the East, they have the honor system. And apparently it worked ... or did it. Sadly, I think we need to assume that everyone is going to do whatever they can do to cheat ... anything less and it is unfair to those who really work for their grades. But let's not think that grades are a great measure of anything. When I read the history textbook a foreign friend was using for her history requirement, replete with idioms and sayings that no non-American would not stumble over ... all over the pages, there is elitism there. There is elitism when questions, now mostly multiple choice are more a judge of your clever English parsing than anything else. Not to mention some of us get really great teachers in classes that actually like to and know how to teach, and some of us get work for the minimum foreigner who cannot speak English well enough to really convey the nuances of meaning necessary to teach or to understand some student's questions.

Whatever ... I am with the ones here who say, when someone attacks the structure of society to corrupt or pervert it, such as this, it is more than just a misdemeanor, it is an affront to all civilized people and a major deal - expulsion should be the punishment, and public as well so others know it. Whatever it takes to protect the integrity of the system ... or to recover the intrigity our system used to have - do whatever it is. Get rid of whoever stands in the way or cannot accomplish that.

But we do have to figure out how to teach people competently, and test them in their understanding of what they learned.


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Posted by My two cents
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 21, 2014 at 7:09 am

@ rats

Well said. I have a feeling one bad purchase is leading Dunkin to another purchase to fix the issues or what Infinite Campus did not deliver. She hired a full time contractor for years to smooth things out, the contractor also has a contractor working for her. Dunkin also paying Campus to bring us some custom features. I wonder why Skelly is allowing this and i want to know how much we have pent on the system, the additional custom features, the extra labors.


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Posted by long memory
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:51 am

Web Link
INCREDIBLY, this is the link to a news report of the early 2000's Saratoga High School student cheating scandals -- guess WHO was principal at the time?? - Yes, Skelley.
The ends justifies the means = these folks' morals.


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Posted by long memory
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 8:56 am

Web Link
And guess, what, this is ANOTHER link to a late 90's (pre Skelly, I believe) cheating scandal at Saratoga High, involving "top" students who used a connection in Singapore to cheat.
The lack of ethics of these "top" students makes me truly sad.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2014 at 11:32 am

Future former Paly parent has totally been vindicated....


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Posted by parent2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Mr. Recycle,

It was a great call for Future Former Paly Parent to post this.

I initially thought it could have been a bad joke.

NOT a bad joke.

Now that it's been confirmed, the full investigation is anxiously awaited.

The now confirmed story is actually even more complicated because a teacher's password was used. The district may have been protecting both a student and a teacher from the criminal offenses.

Very concerning is IT security, and what a DISASTER to have let this happen.


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Posted by Read Up
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:07 pm

@parent2: It says "staff"--staff isn't synonymous with teacher.


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Posted by no name
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm

@parent2: Interesting how you immediately jump from a student's egregious cheating to a teacher having done something wrong. So typical of palo alto parents.


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Posted by parent2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2014 at 6:34 pm

no name and read up

There are 2 threads on this now. It does say staff in the press release, and on a related thread a parent posted that this happened at Gunn five years ago, and that was a teacher password.

Somebody said this has been happening for years, so apparently that checks out too! It's all disgusting.

The student's egregious cheating is a big issue, and so are these security breaches lingering for years with nobody bringing them out in the open. This all came out because of a dumb thread on 9th grade English classes?




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