Dixon district punishes some who benefited from grade hacking

Punishment has been meted out to some students who had their grades changed in a hacking of teacher grade books.

Nine students were suspended, with one of those students facing possible expulsion, the Dixon Unified School District said Friday.

“While there was significant wrongdoing by too many students here, there were also admissions of guilt and acceptance of responsibility,” said district Superintendent Brian Dolan.

The school district investigation revealed that unauthorized changes were made to grades of 32 Dixon High School students. An alleged student hacker, Juan Ambriz, 18, was arrested on suspicion of alteration of a computer database shortly after the grade changes were discovered May 13.

Electronic grade books of nine teachers were hacked. More than 200 changes to the grades of students on individual assignments were made over a roughly four-month period.

School and police officials have said Ambriz confessed to the hacking. They declined to reveal how Ambriz gained access to the school’s grading system.

The hacking was initially discovered by a teacher, who reported it to supervisors. Information technology experts identified the IP address of the computer used to change grades. The address was not that of a district computer.

During the investigation, school officials interviewed all 32 students. School administrators made the determination on what, if any, discipline was necessary.

Three students were suspended for five days for what the district said was extensive involvement in grade changing. One of the students has been recommended for expulsion.

Six students were suspended for three days for involvement in changing grades without authorization and/or direct knowledge of their grades being changed and not reporting it.

None of the remaining 23 students received disciplinary consequences. No evidence was discovered that showed they had asked for changes or were aware of changes.