Sanford: The grade changing scandal and criminal charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Practically everyone agrees that the wholesale act of changing the grades of students at Trezevant High and other schools has become a major scandal. School officials should strictly forbid the practice unless there are legitimate reasons to alter grades on transcripts.

But the prospect of teachers and school administrators facing criminal prosecution for changing grades is something that requires a lengthy and careful debate.

State Representative Antonio Parkinson of Memphis is the primary sponsor of a bill requiring education officials across the state to set specific policies to deter grade changes. The bill would also make violations of those policies a criminal misdemeanor.

The bill is in response to reports that numerous grades were changed at Trezevant mostly for members of the school's championship football team. In many cases, failing grades were changed to passing allowing ineligible students to graduate. An independent investigation also indicated that the practice had occurred at other Shelby County schools.

Parkinson says his bill is meant to deter improper grade changes and not necessarily to prosecute teachers. But the Tennessee Education Association thinks even the threat of criminal charges goes too far. The organization plans to vigorously oppose the bill as written.

It's no doubt that the grading scandal is a black eye for the county school system, but putting one more criminal charge on the books may not be the answer.