In early May of 2008, as many as 20 students (some 60 were interrogated) were charged with tampering with grades by hacking into the district’s grading software. TZT has received numerous reports from some of the students concerning aggressive interrogation tactics in order to coerce statements of admitting wrongdoing. Two of the students claim that because their grades were changed without their prior knowledge they were wrongly punished after these draconian measures. Below is a series of news accounts from KHOU Channel 11 in Houston.
May 3, 2008
MISSOURI CITY, Texas -- The Secret Service is assisting Fort Bend ISD officials as its police department investigates a grade-changing scheme at one of the district’s high schools.
About 60 students had their grades altered at Hightower High School over the last two months. Apparently, students who had access to school computers on campus found a way to manipulate the grades.
A Fort Bend ISD source said the grade-changing scheme appears to have been random, and that many of the students who had their grades changed were unaware of what had happened.
Fort Bend ISD police obtained four search warrants for students’ homes believed to have been behind the plot. A number of computer hard drives, log books and “tools” used to gain access to the school’s computers were gathered as evidence during the warrant searches.
The district police have also teamed up with computer forensic experts from the U.S. Secret Service to scan the computers confiscated during the searches.
It appears that the school’s computers were not hacked into, but rather students who had access to campus administrative computers gained access to Hightower’s grading software.
Luckily, with graduation just weeks away, school officials are in the process of putting grades back to where they were prior to the changes. District officials said no one’s grades or grade point average would be affected by the scheme.
No arrests have been made in the case.
May 30, 2008
SUGAR LAND -- More students of Hightower High School in the Fort Bend ISD are in trouble because of a grade-changing scheme 11 News first reported last month.
A few months ago, the Fort Bend school district discovered that someone had hacked into the computers at Hightower High School and stated changing students’ grades. Now 23 students have been punished for their involvement in the hacking.
Those students have been sent to an alternative education class within Hightower High. Other students will remain in alternative classes all next school year as well, school district officials said.
The investigation into the grade-changing plot was handled by the Fort Bend ISD Police Department, which sought the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service to conduct computer forensics testing of computers confiscated from some of the students’ homes.
Officials told 11 News that all of the changed grades had been corrected.
The district has also implemented a wide-ranging lockdown of its computer system. That includes very limited access to the Internet from district computers and a total shutdown of its Internet server every night.
June 6, 2008
RICHMOND, Texas -- A federal judge has ruled that the valedictorian of a Fort Bend ISD high school can be barred from participating in graduation ceremonies on Saturday.
George Bush High School honor student Khurrum Khan had sued the school district for the right to participate in commencement ceremonies. He was excluded after being punished as part of a district investigation into computer tampering and a grade-changing scheme.
Khan, who has been accused of stealing computers from his school, had been banned from participating in any senior class activities including graduation. Khan claimed the district did not have enough evidence to prevent him from delivering the graduation address on Saturday.
In an order issued Friday afternoon, federal judge David Hittner denied Khan’s claim.
“Because neither the federal nor Texas constitution protects Khan’s interest in attending and participating in his high school graduation ceremony, the court finds Khan cannot demonstrate the deprivation of a cognizable liberty or property interest,” the judge wrote.
Khan, the only valedictorian caught up in the computer tampering investigations at Bush, Hightower and Elkins high schools , filed his federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking a restraining order. The class salutatorian is scheduled to preside over Bush’s graduation ceremonies Saturday morning.
Khan is among the 27 students in Fort Bend ISD disciplined after the district’s probe of the computer tampering and a grade-changing.
In his request for the restraining order, Khan denies involvement and claims the district has no evidence to justify the decision to ban him from graduation ceremonies.
"Preventing me from having the opportunity to establish my innocence or providing me with a hearing in order that I may do so brings dishonor upon me and my family," Khan wrote in a statement to the court. "Preventing me from graduating with my class and giving the valedictory address will haunt me the rest of my life."
Kahn’s family said the teen’s indictment is a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They could not be reached for comment on the judge’s ruling.
All stories © 2008, KHOU