AG Announces Arrest of Former School Secretary Accused of Altering Grades to Help Daughter

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Tom Corbett announced that agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation have filed criminal charges against a Huntingdon County woman accused of using her position as a high school secretary to alter grades and test scores in order to enhance her daughter’s class standing.

Corbett identified the defendant as Caroline Maria McNeal, 39, Huntingdon.

Corbett said that McNeal is accused of using her position as a secretary for the Huntingdon Area School District to access school computers and improperly alter grades and test scores belonging to her daughter, along with several other students – enhancing her daughter’s class standing and reducing the position of other students who had been ranked higher.

“Tampering with official records for personal or family gain is a serious violation of the public trust,” Corbett said. “Our citizens depend on people in public positions, including school employees, to protect the safety and security of these records and not use confidential information for their own benefit.”

According to the criminal complaint, McNeal used the names and passwords of other school district employees to change grades and test scores on numerous occasions between May 2006 and July 2007. The changes allegedly impacted 24 different high school courses stretching over four school years.

Corbett said that a review of computer records allegedly identified nearly 200 instances where grades were improperly altered, each time resulting in higher grades for McNeal’s daughter. McNeal is also accuses of inflating the score her daughter received on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), a standardized test used for college admission.

Additionally, Corbett said that McNeal allegedly used school computers to reduce the grades for two of her daughter’s classmates, both of whom were ranked higher before the alterations.

Corbett noted that Huntingdon Area School District officials addressed the alleged grade alterations and corrected any unauthorized changes prior to the graduation of the students whose grades were affected.

The allegations were initially reported to the Huntingdon County District Attorney’s office, whichreferred the matter to the Office of Attorney General for investigation.

McNeal is charged with 29 counts of unlawful use of a computer and 29 counts of tampering with public records, all third-degree felonies which are each punishable by up to seven years in prison and $15,000 fines.

McNeal surrendered to agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and was preliminarily arraigned before Huntingdon Magisterial District Judge Richard S. Wilt.

McNeal was released on her own recognizance pending the scheduling of a preliminary hearing.

Corbett thanked the Huntingdon Area School District for their cooperation and assistance with this investigation.

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