By J. Harry Jones
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
May 1, 2008
RANCHO BERNARDO - An assistant principal revealed details of a cheating
scandal uncovered at Rancho Bernardo High School, and his reaction to
the decline of morality among some students, in an emotional memo to
"Our (worst) technological nightmare has just occurred," Assistant
Principal Keith Koelzer wrote. "At this point, we have identified 8
students (with varying degrees of involvement) who hacked into our
school network, downloaded several teacher's files on the flashdrives,
distributed tests to students days before they were administered and
altered grades on student transcripts. The eight students are all
Advanced Placement students, they are all smart, but they have no
"This case is unique in its depth of complexity and depravity."
Koelzer sent the memo  Saturday to teachers and other staff members
by e-mail, the day after the scandal was uncovered. The San Diego
Union-Tribune requested the memo, and the Poway Unified School District
released it Thursday, with small parts of it redacted.
Until now, school officials have released few details about the ongoing
"On Friday, one student went into incredible detail of his movements in
this deceit over the past two months," Koelzer said in the memo. "After
listening, I turned to his mother and asked, 'What do you think of this
kind of morality?' The mother replied, 'I am not a mother anymore.' I
asked the same question to the boy's father and he responded, 'This is
not the morality of my ancestors.'"
Koelzer wrote that the pressure to get into a good college "has overly
consumed one of our students. He described to his father and me how his
transcripts were altered and personally delivered them to a college. As
the student talked, I watched his father's face and I could see his
18-year dream of his child's UC education disappear."
The names, ages and grade levels of the students have not been released.
"We must honor the due process of these students," Koelzer said. "The
stakes cannot be any higher for these students. They are staring at
expulsion, questioning by police, questioning by our district
technicians, (a) potential lawsuit by the district" and a rescinding of
On Monday, district Superintendent Donald Phillips said six students
have been suspended while the investigation continues. Principal Paul
Robinson said the police are aware of what has happened but are awaiting
the results of the school investigation before proceeding.
In part of his memo, Koelzer philosophizes about drunk driving and how
some students have lost their "moral compasses."
He said he recently attended the funeral of a 20-year-old Rancho
Bernardo High graduate who died in a suspected drunk-driving-related
accident in Poway three weeks ago.
Koelzer wrote that the father of the man killed in the accident asked
for everybody in the church under the age of 21 to stand up. Then he
asked all of those standing who had not had something to drink in the
past two weeks to sit down.
Only five did, Koelzer said.
"I saw a current student five rows up from me continue to stand up,
while his parents sat down next to him."
Koelzer wrote that the father of the dead 20-year-old had an opportunity
to send a message, "but he blundered as his son lay in a coffin below
him. He continued by saying that he has been smoking pot since he was 12
years old and that he will continue to do so. He finished with a muddled
message of 'slow down when you've been drinking and driving' and finally
that it was 'better to get a DUI.' That's when I left."
Koelzer won teacher of the year honors in 2005 from the district and was
promoted to assistant principal a short time later.
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