11 Students Expelled in SoCal High School Cheating Scandal

Tuesday night the school board voted to expel the students, who were already suspended after officials identified them as being involved in a scheme to alter grades.

A Southern California school board decided Tuesday night to expel nearly a dozen students for a cheating scandal that involved a private tutor who has been missing for more than one month.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District had already suspended 11 students that officials identified as being involved in a scheme to alter grades.

"It is our sincere hope that the speculations and rumors regarding student discipline matters can now be put to rest and for the sake of the school community and all involved, these student discipline matters are considered resolved," Board of Education President Karen Yelsey said in a statement. 

The school board spent hours in a closed session Tuesday night before voting on a recommendation by Corona del Mar High School's principal that the students be expelled. The school board weighed each student's case on an individual basis.

Parents, many of whom attended the board's regular meeting Tuesday, of the accused students claim the scandal is more widespread. The tutor was working with up to 150 students, the parents said.

The school wil audit 750 grade entries over the past year as part of an investigation into whether more students were involved in the scheme.

Police are looking to interview the private tutor for his alleged involvement in the cheating scandal, according to a statement by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

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The private tutor provided students with a key logger device that allowed them to steal password information that allowed them to access tests and other information, according to police. The tutor -- 28-year-old Timothy Lance Lai -- has not been seen since mid-December.

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Lai, whose last known residence was in Irvine, provided students with the device and instructions on how to use it, district officials said.  Parents and students told NBC4 that he might have left the country.

Corona del Mar High School is a 2,500-student public college prep school in Newport Beach named one of the nation's best by U.S. News and World Report.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District is currently auditing teachers' grade books to ensure the integrity of posted grades, and has also implementing a new notification system to flag grade changes, according to the statement issued by the district.

"The District will continue to partner with Corona del Mar High School administration and staff to ensure that the rigor and educational excellence demonstrated by (Corona del Mar’s) graduates for decades is not tarnished. Despite needing some time to wrestle with the disappointment of this unfortunate incident, we are confident that the school community will rise above this event," the statement said.

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