Criminal Justice

Lawyer's Son Among 20 Charged in SAT Cheating Case; Lawmaker Points Finger at Some Parents

At least one lawyer’s son is among 20 individuals charged in a widening criminal case focused on New York high school students who allegedly paid ringers up to $3,500 to take their standardized college entrance exams for them.

The 13 most recently charged include both four who were allegedly paid to take SAT or ACT exams for others and nine high school students who are accused of hiring them to do so, according to the Nation Now page of the Los Angeles Times and the New York Post.

Some of the 13 are facing felony cases and charges of scheming to defraud, falsifying business records and criminal impersonation in the Long Island case, according to the Times.

In September, Nassau County Dist. Atty. Kathleen Rice charged another seven individuals, including one who allegedly took SATs and six accused of paying him to do so. At that point, all except the suspected test-taker, who faces a felony case, were charged with misdemeanors.

She said prosecutors suspect 40 individuals were involved, but the two-year statute of limitations has expired for the other 20, reports the Associated Press.

The AP says some of those involved are juveniles, who were charged with misdemeanors. Because of privacy rules, those who are attending college apparently do not have to worry that prosecutors will notify the institutions of the allegations against them.

Among the adults charged in felony cases is a son of a Long Island lawyer, who is accused of taking tests for others. His attorney, Brian Griffin, said the young man and another youth who is also his client have done nothing wrong, the AP reports. However, such allegations should not be the subject of a criminal prosecution, he argues.

“You’re talking about students cheating on tests,” said Griffin. “You’re not talking about violent crime. You’re not talking about drugs. No one condones, but it does not belong in the criminal justice system.”

Interviewed by the New York Post over a week before his son turned himself in today, the lawyer called his son “a very smart kid” and said he very much doubted he could be involved. “He works hard,” the father said, “and he’s earned everything he’s gotten.”

Great Neck North High School reportedly brought the situation to the attention of officials, after hearing rumors of ringers taking college entrance exams and comparing the academic records and test results of a number of students who didn’t take the test at their own high school.

A New York lawmaker pointed the finger at some parents of those allegedly involved and called for a statewide investigation.

“There are parents that are complicit in this,” state Sen. Ken LaValle, who chairs the body’s committee on higher education, told CBS New York. “They are involved. You can’t tell me that students are walking around with $3,500.”

He urged fellow lawmakers to “light a fire” under district attorneys statewide to investigate whether similar cheating is occurring at their own local high schools. .

The scandal has also led to questions about possible cheating both in other boroughs and outside of New York. In nearby Montclair, N.J., high school officials say they scrutinize test-taker identification and foiled one would-be cheat by checking with the youth’s parents after receiving an anonymous tip that he might have a ringer try to take the test, reports the Montclair Times.

“There will still be people who try to beat the system by producing very good looking counterfeit picture IDs,” said Scott White, director of guidance at Montclair High School. “We do the best we can to pick them out.”

Rice, the Nassau County DA, said the situation cries out for better controls. She suggested, for example, that officials could snap a photo of each individual taking the test.

However, a school newspaper in California called for all students to be required to upload a photo of themselves when they first apply to take standardized tests. This would make it difficult for a substitute to sit for exams, unless the same one took all the student’s tests. And it would also provide not only a photo for proctors to check before tests but could be used as evidence in an investigation, according to the Octagon.

Additional and related coverage:

Bloomberg: “More Long Island Students Charged in Test Cheating Scandal”

Times of India: “High on cheating techniques, candidates outsmart invigilators”

Wall Street Journal (sub. req.): “Admissions Cheating Probe Widens”

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