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Apodaca: Cheating story is not going away

February 08, 2014|By Patrice Apodaca

The Corona del Mar High School cheating scandal is becoming one of those stories that just won't die, which is great for those of us in the news business, but perhaps not so much for the community at large.

Wild rumors, suspicion, deep-seated resentments and clashing opinions about the case keep bouncing around Newport-Mesa. Just when you think the rebounding has begun to lose momentum, a new aspect to the story arises, and the bouncing takes off again.

For those of you who have been vacationing in Antarctica for the past few months and missed all the action, here's a recap: A group of CdM students — I'll call them "the CdM 11" — reportedly at the instigation of a private tutor allegedly used a gizmo called a keylogger to hack teachers' computers to change grades and access tests.

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The CdM 11 were expelled from the high school earlier this month. The tutor is wanted for questioning by police but remains at large. And now — the latest twist — a district administrator has resigned after accusing the district of bungling the whole affair.

"Total farce," "disturbed and saddened," and "serious deficiencies in the management and operation of the district" — these phrases represent just a sampling from the harsh appraisal offered by Jane Garland, who handled Newport-Mesa's discipline program but last week said she couldn't continue under the circumstances.

Garland, a fervent advocate of the restorative justice style of discipline, accused the district of abandoning those principles in favor of a quick, ham-fisted, one-size-fits-all response.

The CdM 11 weren't all equally culpable, she said, but the district chose to circumvent her recommendations against expulsion. She also accused the district of singling out a handful of students for punishment before a full investigation into the possibility of other students' involvement is complete.

It's all a big mess, and very sad. I'm sorry to see Garland, who I've always respected, so completely at odds with other officials, including Supt. Fred Navarro, who restored steady, intelligent leadership to the district since assuming the top job in 2012.

But I'm also concerned that another victim of the CdM 11 scandal might be restorative justice itself. If this case results in, or reflects, a district retreat from adopting restorative practices, that would be a shame.

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