Timothy Lai  is alleged to have helped students at Corona del Mar High change their grades by breaking into the school and attaching a “key logger” device to teacher computers. Before he could be questioned, Lai fled the country and was arrested at LAX last October when he returned.

Jeffrey Hubbard is the ex-Superintendent of the N-MUSD. From the L.A. Times: “Hubbard  was convicted in January 2012 of two counts of misappropriating public funds while acting as superintendent of Beverly Hills Unified School District from July 2003 to June 2006.”

Hubbard’s convictions were overturned in Jan., 2014.

When Lai was captured, the school district issued this statement: “The matter is now in their [the district attorney’s] capable hands and the district will be referring all media inquiries to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Corona del Mar High School has moved beyond this incident. It no longer involves the campus or school district and is a matter for the legal system.” (OC Register)

In other words, they won’t be talking about the alleged criminal who may have been behind yet another scandal at one of the top schools in the district. This statement is not surprising as it’s just another attempt to try to sweep yet another scandal under the rug. Standard Operating Procedure.

Unfortunately, the district’s latest attempt at rug sweeping is inconsistent with the remarks made during Hubbard’s trial. The school board is keeping mum about Lai while his case makes its way through the legal system, but a couple of trustees had no problem commenting on Hubbard’s case before it had been decided.

Privately and publicly, Trustee Walt Davenport spoke up and supported Hubbard. “‘We remain positive and confident of a positive outcome for you,’ school board President Walt Davenport wrote in a Dec. 16 e-mail to Hubbard. ‘We just hope it happens quickly. You would have been heartened by the applause when [a district official] relayed your greeting to the folks at the district lunch yesterday. I think the troops are solidly behind you.'” (DP 2/18/11)

Davenport also said, “The school board president said Friday that he believes the embattled Newport-Mesa schools chief will be vindicated. ‘I don’t believe he will be found guilty,'” school Trustee Walt Davenport said.” (DP 7/4/11)

“I am adamant that Dr. Hubbard is innocent until proven guilty,” said Trustee Dana Black. (DP 10/13/11)

Alas, no such love for Lai.

So, why is it OK to comment on Hubbard’s case before it had been decided, but not OK to comment on Lai’s case before it has been decided?

Answer: It’s not.

But school board double standards are standard and that makes it OK to pursue a policy of selective decision-making. Whether it’s fencing in the field at Adams Elementary School but not the field at Anderson Elementary, or commenting on one pending legal case but not another, the school board responds to each crisis without a consistent policy. The cheating scandal at CdM is another example of this lightweight leadership.

Been there, hacked that

One scene in a popular movie about high school kids showed the school principal reviewing the attendance record of a troublesome student. As he was looking at the screen, the student’s “absent” numbers began to drop: His computer was being hacked not by the type of clumsy device that Lai is accused of using, but by the student from his bedroom.

The movie is 28 years old.

The Lai case is not just about his guilt or innocence. Lai exposed a weakness in school district security that has wide implications, yet there has been no statement on what the district is doing or has done to prevent more grade hacking. Unless we are told otherwise, the more sophisticated form of remote computer hacking of the type in that 28-year-old movie may be going on right now and may have been going on for years, which makes all the district’s grades and test scores suspect.

What taxpayers need to know immediately is what is being done not only to protect their investment in the district’s computer system, but also to protect the reputation of the district against the notion that computer hacking could very well be responsible for years of inflated grades and test scores.

But you won’t get a statement on either subject because the school board has spoken and Lai’s case, “…no longer involves the campus or school district…”

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