Mom Changed Kids' Grades on School Computer, Cops Say
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A woman in Pennsylvania was arrested last week after allegedly changing her children’s grades, leading to her being charged with three counts each of unlawful use of a computer and computer trespass, both third-degree felonies.
Catherine Venusto, a former part-time secretary at the Northwestern Lehigh School District's administration building in Slatington, PA illegedly accessed the grading system using Superintendent Mary Anne Wright's password more than 100 times. Authorities said Venusto additionally used the login credentials of nine other district employees, mostly in the guidance department.
Venusto's administrative duties included creating the sign-on information for Wright and other employees of the district.
District officials first noticed a problem in January after the principal of Northern Lehigh High School asked Wright why she was checking the digital grade books. Wright answered that she hadn't, and the security breach was reported to authorities.
“At the time, I didn’t quite have a grasp of the scope of what happened, but I was immediately concerned for protected information,” Wright told the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call.
The newspaper also reported that the school district had not changed any of its employee passwords since Venusto left her job in April 2011.
Venusto, 45, has at least two children in the district, according to the district attorney's office, and had begun working in the school district in 2008. Venusto allegedly changed a grade for her daughter — from an 'F' to a medically excused 'M' — in June 2010 and allegedly boosted a grade of her son's from a 98 to a 99 this past February.
Interviewed at her home by state police, Venusto allegedly admitted changing the grades and using the superintendent’s passwords to access district emails and personnel files.
District Attorney's spokeswoman Debbie Garlicki told ABC News Radiothat Venusto could face a maximum of 42 years in prison or a $90,000 fine if convicted — seven years or $15,000 per count.
45-year-old Venusto logged into the general district system "thousands of times" from three computers: her home machine, one registered to East Penn School District and one associated to the QVC home shopping network, where Venusto had also been employed.
"Within three hours of suspecting unauthorized access, email, student information system and the district shared drive were shut down," Wright told Lehigh Valley Live. "New security measures were put in place before the systems were accessed again."
Venusto admitted to police that she had accessed the system, saying it was the byproduct of "curiosity and boredom," between August 2010 and February 2012, almost a year after leaving for a job with the East Penn School District.
Venusto told detectives that she believed her actions were unethical, but not illegal, according to the Morning Call.