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Petition urges county ed board to drop CdM lawsuit

Newport-Mesa parents say they want to put the cheating scandal behind them.

April 03, 2014|By Hannah Fry

A group of Newport-Mesa Unified parents are circulating an online petition urging the Orange County Board of Education to drop a lawsuit filed against the district and several Corona del Mar High School families whose children allegedly participated in CdM's recent cheating scandal.

The Change.org petition encourages the board to "stop wasting taxpayer money" and end the lawsuit, which was filed March 24 by the county board. The group's goal of 100 signatures was attained by Thursday morning, after just two days of being circulated online.

"People are sick and tired of this. It's going beyond people being angry that this cheating happened in the first place," said Kim Gessford, a district parent who has children at CdM Middle School and Lincoln Elementary School. "Now people are angry that three parents are heading down the road to appeal what we thought was finally over."

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The county department of education filed the lawsuit against the district and five CdM High School families in an effort to get judicial clarity about whether it can hear appeals from students expelled in the cheating scandal.

"The Orange County Board of Education members should be ashamed of themselves," an unnamed parent wrote in a letter being circulated with the petition. "They had the opportunity to end this, yet, they for some reason want to investigate further with your money."

A secondary goal of the petition is to discourage the parents of three Corona del Mar High students who were removed from school for allegedly participating in the cheating scheme from appealing their expulsions.

Irvine tutor Timothy Lance Lai allegedly masterminded the plot that allowed the students to change grades and access exams, some at the honors and Advanced Placement levels, according to officials. Police have tried unsuccessfully to locate him since the case went public in December.

As of March 24, the district has spent $44,707 in legal fees since the CdM issue became public in December, district spokeswoman Laura Boss said in a previous interview.

"That's money that parents would love to see go toward educational purposes," Gessford said.

Since the county board announced the lawsuit, Newport-Mesa officials have approved an amended expulsion agreement with one of the five families that filed an appeal with the county, said board President Karen Yelsey.

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