State lawmaker wants to make unauthorized grade changing a crime

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. -- A state lawmaker is taking action after a grading scandal at Trezevant High.

Tennessee Representative Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, drafted a bill that would make it a misdemeanor crime to make unauthorized changes to students' transcripts.

He drew up the bill just days after a 258-page audit was released showing turmoil with Trezevant.

The report stated hundreds of grades were changed on transcripts from failing to passing over the past four years. It resulted in 53 students getting diplomas they didn't earn.

The audit also revealed a few other schools in the district had an abnormal amount of grade changes.

"Ultimately, this is about protecting our children," said Parkinson. "With the legislation, we are going to ensure confidence in the system. We are going to protect students and families and protect whistle blowers."

Parkinson also wants to require all school districts to have a policy in place for grade changing.

"I do believe it's long overdue," said SCS board member Stephanie Love. "With a law in place, this just further strengthens our policy to make sure people are being held accountable statewide."

Shelby County Education Association President Keith Williams said the bill is good in theory, but there needs to be more proactive measures in place.

"It's always the dog chasing the cat," he told WREG. "If you saw a number of grades being changed, when did the alarm go off there? Who's going to go to jail at the board of education?"

Shelby County School's administration wouldn't give their opinion on Parkinson's legislation. The state's Department of Education wouldn't either.

Parkinson said he plans on filing the bill in January.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer has asked the district attorney to launch an investigation into the grade scandal.

She wants District Attorney Amy Weirich to go through the recent audit.

"I am going to be consulting with District Attorney General Amy Weirich to see if any of this she believes have the potential to have criminal offense involved in it," she said.

The district attorney's office said it is aware of what's going on and will share more information when it is available.

SCS said it has expanded its investigation to the other schools listed int he report, and also implemented tighter controls on documents and training.