11 Students Expelled in Grade-Changing Scandal at Corona Del Mar High School

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The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board has voted to expel 11 students in connection with a cheating scandal at Corona del Mar High School.

The vote, which was held in closed session at a meeting Tuesday night, came after a weeks-long investigation into reports of computer-hacking and grade-changing at the Newport Beach campus.


Timothy Lance Lai, 28, of Irvine sought in alleged computer cheating scandal at O.C. high school. (Credit: Newport Beach Police)

“The Board’s action imposes discipline upon these students for the maximum allowed by the Education Code for what occurred” at the school, according to a statement by Board of Education President Karen Yelsey. “Now that this has been read into the official record, let me say that the action by the Board upheld the recommendation of the principal and district administration.”

The expelled students were identified only by their discipline file numbers.

Meanwhile, police are still searching for a private tutor suspected of helping the group of students, officials said.

“We discovered … that several students were involved in hacking into staff members’ computers,” Laura Boss, communications director for the school district, said in December. “It appears that it was possible grade changes and access to tests.”

The tutor, Timothy Lance Lai, 28, of Irvine allegedly showed the students how to hack into the computers by using a device known as a keylogger, which the tutor provided, officials said.

Lai is not affiliated with the high school and was being sought as a person of interest in the investigation.

“They plug this device into the back of the computer, on the keyboard cord, so it’s not even identifiable,” Boss said. “They leave it there for a week and a half to two weeks, and then they go and retrieve it. What they’re tracking is keystrokes.”

Parents said more than 17 teachers’ computers were hacked by a group of upperclassmen.

“It’s shocking,” Corona del Mar High parent Leslye Shamberg said when the allegations first came to light. “I can’t believe that an adult who’s supposed to be helping these children and mentoring them would tell them to do something like this.”

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