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March 3, 2010

Dear Churchill Parents,

I am writing to invite you to a community meeting about the ongoing investigation into unauthorized
grade changes made during the first semester at Winston Churchill High School. This meeting will be
held on Monday, March 8, 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the Churchill auditorium.

The purpose of this meeting will be to update the community on the status of the investigation; provide
information on what security measures we are taking to protect student data; and, most importantly, to
answer your questions and concerns.

There will be opportunities to ask questions at the meeting, but if you would like to submit your
question in advance, please email it to me at Joan_L_Benz@mcpsmd.org by the end of the day
Thursday, March 4. We will answer questions that are appropriate to be shared with the public during
the meeting on Monday night. Questions and answers that are not appropriate for a public audience –
such as those regarding specific students or staff members – will be responded to at a later time.

To facilitate the free exchange of information, I have included on the back of this letter answers to
some of the most frequently asked questions we have received over the past several weeks. As the
investigation is still ongoing, we are not able to answer all of your questions, but this Q & A will
provide you with the latest information we are able to share.

While I know these events have been difficult for our school community, it’s important to remember
that only a small percentage of Churchill students had any involvement in grade changing. The
overwhelming majority of Churchill students are upstanding young men and women who have
achieved their success through honest hard work. They are to be commended.

I look forward to meeting with you Monday evening.


Joan C. Benz

March 3, 2010

Q: What is the status of the investigation and what are the findings so far?

A: The investigation into allegations of unauthorized grade changing during the first semester at Churchill High
is ongoing. As previously stated, our investigation has identified eight students who were found to have obtained
teachers’ user IDs and passwords and used that information to access the school’s electronic grading system.
Churchill High teachers, with the assistance of staff from the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, reviewed
the first semester grade history reports for their students and were asked to verify any grade changes. After
reviewing these reports, Churchill teachers have verified unauthorized grade changes for a total 54 students—
the eight students initially identified and an additional 46 students. It is not clear how many of the 46 students
knew their grades had been changed. In all cases, the original grades have been restored and, when necessary,
corrected reported cards have been issued.

Q: What will happen to the students who were involved?

A: We have already begun disciplinary proceedings against the students who obtained teachers’ user IDs and
passwords. Three of those students are no longer enrolled in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), and
the disciplinary process for the remaining students is ongoing. Because of federal privacy laws, we cannot reveal
the names of the students or the punishment they will face. You can view the range of possible punishments a
student could face in the “Students Rights and Responsibilities” guide, which can be found at the following link:
The next phase of the investigation will seek to determine how many of the 46 additional students who had
unauthorized grade changes were aware their grades had been changed. It is possible more students could face
disciplinary action, but it is likely that some students did not know their grades had been changed.

Q: Will any of these students face criminal charges?

A: The decision whether to pursue criminal charges in this case rests completely with the Montgomery County
State’s Attorney’s office.

Q: Has a criminal investigation begun?

A: The State’s Attorney’s Office has issued a subpoena for all documents related to the school system’s
investigation at Churchill High School. It’s important to note that we MUST comply with this court order and
submit the information the State’s Attorney is requesting. As required by the Federal Educational Rights and
Privacy Act (FERPA), we sent nearly 700 letters to parents notifying them of the subpoena and that their child’s
grade book records are included in the information we are sending to the State’s Attorney’s Office. The grade
changes for a majority of these students were valid as verified by teachers. However, since these records were
included in our initial investigation, we must turn them over.

Q: Will the fact a student’s grade report was given to the State’s Attorney become a part of the student’s
permanent record?

A: No. Parents can verify this by making an appointment to view their child’s school file by calling the
counseling office at (301) 469-1211.