Discipline cases on board's agenda

Newport-Mesa Unified District trustees Tuesday night could decide the fate of the Corona del Mar High students accused of participating in a cheating scheme that dates back to April 2013.

With the help of a private tutor, Timothy Lance Lai, of Irvine, the students allegedly hacked into the high school's computers to access tests and change grades.

Eleven student discipline cases appear on the agenda during the board's closed session, which begins at 4:30 p.m. The district previously would not release a specific number of students involved, only saying it was roughly a dozen.

Each student facing disciplinary action will have a private hearing with the board. After the hearings, trustees can take action to approve district staff's discipline recommendations, according to board policy.

Because matters involving student discipline are not public, it is unclear what recommendations the staff has made for each of the students.

If necessary, the education code allows trustees to take an additional 10 days to make their decision.

Tuesday will mark the 43rd day since district officials were notified that CdM's computer systems and student grades had been compromised.

On Dec. 18, the district confirmed that a dozen students allegedly attached a keylogger — a small device that can be placed in the back of a computer to monitor keystrokes — to teachers' computers to swipe logins and passwords.

With the recorded information, the students allegedly changed grades and accessed English, science and history exams, some at the honors and Advanced Placement levels.

The students are facing various disciplinary actions, including expulsion and stipulated expulsion, which allow them to transfer to another NMUSD high school, said district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

CdM Principal Kathy Scott recommended that the district begin the expulsion process earlier this month, Boss said.

If the board decides to expel the students, they are prohibited from returning to any Newport-Mesa school for a year, according to district policy.

The closed session portion of the meeting is not open to the community. However, the public is allowed to give input on closed session agenda items at the start of the meeting, according to rules mandated by California's open meeting law, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act.

Trustees will announce any action taken during closed session at the beginning of the regular meeting.

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