Richmond County Executive Director for High Schools Lynn Warr said Tuesday the investigation is continuing into how the password was stolen, but it's clear that one student is responsible for stealing it and that 27 others accepted his offers to help them improve their grades.
The teacher whose password was stolen also could be disciplined for not adequately securing the information, Ms. Warr said.
The cheating began this summer. In October, the state Department of Education notified Richmond County when red flags were raised by unusual grade changes in Georgia Virtual School classes.
Georgia Virtual School is a statewide credit recovery program in which 170 Richmond County students participate.
The student who obtained the password changed some scores to 100 within a minute or two of a classmate earning a failing score, Ms. Warr said. In one instance, a student was shown to have passed a test she never attempted to take.
Richmond County's preliminary investigation found that a dozen students had their grades changed, but on Tuesday she said the number had grown.
In all, 27 students gave a classmate their user names and passwords so he could log in and use the teacher's password to alter their scores.
These students were suspended for five days to 10 days, depending on the number of grades changed.
"They all got suspended, all lost credit and all lost the opportunity for credit recovery," Ms. Warr said.
The student accused of stealing the password could face a stiffer punishment if he re-enrolls in Richmond County schools, she said. His mother withdrew him and sent him to live with his father in Arkansas.
Seniors involved also jeopardized their chances of graduating on time. Ms. Warr said these students gave up their free chance to recover credit and must now pay $150 to attend night school to graduate with their classmates.
Some who were approached by the student with the password were afraid of being caught, and others were honest, she said.
Teachers and staff members in the credit recovery class will meet Thursday to discuss how the cheating was able to happen and how to prevent it.
Ms. Warr said two other counties in the state had similar problems with cheating in Georgia Virtual School, which has prompted the Department of Education to rethink its security measures.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.