TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A total of 50 Tucson High Magnet School students, most of them seniors, are under investigation, accused of altering their grades to passing.
In an exclusive interview with KOLD News 13, TUSD Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sanchez said, "We were able to uncover a few students had watched (a teacher) logging in and mimicked her password and were then changing grades for their friends."
"What was an unfortunate twist, they began charging students to change grades," he said.
Sanchez said the investigation started Thursday, May 12, when a teacher noticed the grades in her electronic grade book weren't what she recalled. She also noticed the log-in signatures showed times when she wasn't at work or her computer.
The teacher reported her findings to her principal.
School and district leaders met with the students involved and their parents.
Cesar Vidrio, a senior set to graduate next week, said he was proposition earlier in the school year. He declined to pay $50 in exchange for a grade, but he watched as other students took advantage.
"They would be off the hook," he said. "They were just chilling in class or they would just not go to class because they already passed it."
Vidrio said he never reported the cheating because he was worried about retaliation.
Norma Quintero, another graduating senior, said she agreed with the punishment of taking away graduation from any seniors involved in the cheating. She estimates there are more than the 50 students involved and she said criminal charges would be fair.
"There's a lot more people that want to graduate and are actually like trying to, but they can't when there's these other people cheating their way to graduation," she said.
Leigh Ann Jimenez, mother to an incoming student at Tucson High, echoed Quintero's belief on criminal charges. She said any cheaters should still be allowed to graduate, but that they should be treated like adults instead of students. She said students, like Vidirio, who chose not to cheat should be commended for doing the right thing.
"That's how we should be raising our kids to be," she said. "I really admire those students."
The superintendent said changes will be made because of this situation.
"As technology tends to be the way we do grades, it's something we'll put safeguards into place," Sanchez said. "Our policy with academic dishonesty is just not tolerated."
Sanchez said the seniors involved will not graduate next week. Tucson High's graduation is set for Wednesday, May 25.
"We're disappointed that these students made a bad choice," he said. "Not walking across the stage and not graduating is as steep of a consequence you can face."
However, the district doesn't plan to deny graduation from them completely. Sanchez explained they'll have to retake the class over the summer and if they earn a passing grade, then they'll be allowed to graduate.
Sgt. Pete Dugan with the Tucson Police Department said the students could face potential charges but the TPD is not involved at this time. Dugan said the TPD would not become involved unless contacted by TUSD.