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(NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.) — About a dozen students at a California high school may face disciplinary action for allegedly hacking into the school computer system to change their grades, a school official said Thursday.

School district officials are currently working with the Newport Beach Police Department to investigate the incident at Corona del Mar High School, according to district spokeswoman Laura Boss.

“On Tuesday, December 17, 2013, Corona del Mar High School administration became aware of an issue regarding student misconduct with grades,” Boss said in a statement. “It appears some students hacked into school computers to change grades and access tests.”

A preliminary investigation suggests the students received a hacking device known as a “keystroke logger” from a private tutor, who instructed them how to use it to record passwords and other confidential information from teachers, Boss told ABC News today.

“We do not believe Corona del Mar high school staff were involved in this incident,” she said. The teachers “are extremely disheartened that students would take advantage of them like this and violate their trust.”

The Newport Beach Police Department identified the tutor Thursday as Timothy Lance Lai of Irvine, Calif. His current whereabouts are unknown and authorities are seeking to question him, police said.

While teachers and district officials have expressed outrage about the incident, some students had a slightly different take.

Student Mitch Evans told ABC’s Los Angeles station KABC that he admires the ingenuity of the students who did this.

“I think it’s pretty cool. I know Bill Gates, I believe, used to hack into classes and put himself in the class with the most women in it when he was in high school. So I think it takes a lot of aptitude to be able to get into the system,” Evans said.

School officials begged to differ.

Boss noted that the activity was illegal, so if the students are found to have perpetrated the hacking, then in addition to disciplinary action from the school district, they may face criminal charges.

The students also violated ethical standards as well, she said.

“Honesty and integrity are cornerstones of the quality educational program at CdM. The students engaging in this unlawful conduct have failed to meet those standards and should be ashamed of their behavior,” she said in the statement.

The district is expected to decide on the fate of the students once the investigation concludes, which Boss says will likely be after the school’s winter holiday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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