Churchill Parents Get Update On Cheating Scandal

10:27 PM, Mar 8, 2010   |    comments
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The students allegedly used a thumb drive and keylogger software to capture their teacher's passwords.

POTOMAC, Md. (WUSA) -- Concerned parents packed the school auditorium at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac to get an update on the high-tech cheating scandal that has rocked the community. Investigators revealed precisely how this scandal was uncovered and how it could have been more widespread.

The school's chief technology officer said the root cause of this scandal wasn't technology, but human action. Still, a small device helped students breach a system that administrators believed was secure.

USB key loggers record every keystroke, including passwords, and were used by eight students to gain access to their teachers' computers and change the grades of 54 students.

"Many Churchill students were presented with the opportunity to change grades," said Churchill Principal Joan Benz. "They rejected that choice, and they made the right choice. Their personal integrity remained intact."

But not one of those students alerted the school.

"They should have taken more courage to go to a teacher or a principal," said Churchill parent Sultan Chowdhury. "Even not naming names, they should have said something is happening."

Instead, it was a teacher who raised the red flag after discovering that three students in his class had their grades altered, and he had not done it.

Another Churchill parent, Steve Marshall, thinks the school needs to do more.

"I'm very upset, very disgusted," he said. "As a parent with two children here at this school, I think a lot more has to be done as far as security, as far as access."

Many parents were concerned about the impact the scandal would have on their kids' college admissions.

Debbie Mulhern thinks those parents are missing the point-- pressuring their children to get good grades instead of building strong values.

"No one remembers the tests they took in school, they remember the teachers who inspired them," said Mulhern, who has two children at the school. "They're being bred like race horses and the ones that don't have the drugs to get them to be able to perform feel like they can't keep up."

Of the eight students involved in the scandal, three withdrew from the school voluntarily. The remaining five are not attending classes. A final decision on their fate has not been made. A criminal investigation by the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office is also underway.

Written by Andrea McCarren

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