HUNTINGDON, Pa. – A high school secretary illegally changed grades in a school computer system to improve her daughter's class standing, according to criminal charges filed Thursday.
Caroline Maria McNeal of Huntingdon is accused of using the passwords of three co-workers without their knowledge to tamper with dozens of grades and test scores between May 2006 and July 2007 at Huntingdon Area High School in central Pennsylvania, the state attorney general's office said.
McNeal, 39, is alleged to have improved her daughter Brittany's grades and reduced those of two classmates to enhance Brittany's standing in the 2008 graduating class.
School officials corrected the grades before the students graduated, prosecutors said.
Attorney General Tom Corbett said the case involves "a serious violation of the public trust."
"Our citizens depend on people in public positions, including school employees, to protect the safety and security of these records and not use confidential information for their own benefit," Corbett said.
McNeal was charged with 29 counts of unlawful use of a computer and 29 counts of tampering with public records. Each count is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine, said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Corbett's office.
No telephone number was listed for Caroline McNeal. Brittany McNeal is not charged with any wrongdoing.
Jill Adams, the school district superintendent, said prosecutors have asked school officials not to comment publicly about the case.
"We would like to have it be finished, over and done," she said.
In all, McNeal is accused of altering nearly 200 scores and grades covering four school years.
The situation came to light in October 2007, when an employee of the high school guidance office discovered conflicting SAT scores for Brittany.
Scores provided directly by the College Board showed a cumulative score of 1370, while an unknown source had previously entered 1730, according to court papers.1
Further investigation revealed that the data had been entered from Caroline McNeal's computer starting more than a week before SAT scores for other students were entered.
Three other secretaries at the school told investigators they had shared their passwords with Caroline McNeal during vacations or other prolonged absences.