LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - District officials have denied requests for interviews in the wake of a cheating scandal at Gadsden High School.
"I really can't comment," said Board Member Maria Saenz by phone, who represents district three in the Gadsden Independent School District.
A total of 55 students from Gadsden High School are accused of accessing an online computer program and changing their grades on their online courses.
"Honestly, I was really disappointed with my school and my fellow students who I used to see on a daily basis," said Martin Soriano, who graduated from Gadsden High School last year. "When I heard the news, I was pretty heartbroken."
The school said students in various upper grade levels gained access to the access code that allowed them to change the grade of their work on curriculum software called Edgenuity. Edgenuity is an online platform through which the Gadsden ISD offers a set of courses for credit recovery and acceleration. A total of 456 different grades at various grade levels were found to have been altered.
When asked to speak to the importance of a transparent grading process, Saenz said py phone: "Absolutely, I think we should have it. They should be able to make their good decisions. Sometimes, they don't. None of us do, sometimes."
Superintendent Travis Dempsey declined to go on camera or comment in any way. The other four board members did not answer their phones or immediately return calls for comment.
The district said five of the 55 students have been suspended, and the remainder of the students have various options to rectify the coursework. Any senior who participated and changed a grade cannot graduate because the credit that might have been toward graduation is now invalid.
Out of the 55 students identified, 29 were seniors and the other 26 students were in either 10th or 11th grade.
The district sent this note to parents:
"The purpose of this letter is to notify you that your student has been identified as one of the participants in an improper alteration of public records specifically changing of grade(s) on Edgenuity.... After an in person interview of your student, multiple other students, the teachers involved and a review of the reports available from Edgenuity show that your student was in fact involved."
The actions were a violation of the Gadsden Independent School District’s Electronic User Agreement, according to the letter sent to parents.
The investigation started April 19, and involved interviews of all students who had changed their grades, as well as the teachers who entered the original grades.
"Some students go to some pretty extreme lengths just to be able to graduate," said Soriano, who after graduating high school, is now attending college. "I was just really disappointed."