Ferris Bueller has a couple of budding protégés in Berkeley, Calif. Students at Berkeley High School in this city near San Francisco have spun an attendance scam worthy of the famous movie delinquent.
To avoid that dreaded “nine times?” query from their parents, a group of students cracked the log-in for the school’s online attendance system and were able to change their attendance records. And for a fee, those with the password would change others’ records — or simply sell the password.
Those who were in on the hack were able to come in tardy or skip school altogether with no perceived consequences — until now. After several weeks, the school finally caught on, and the implicated students are receiving the days off that they once craved — in the form of suspensions. School principal Pasquale Scuderi announced that as of Wednesday, 32 of the estimated 50 Berkeley High students involved had been suspended, and that two or three of the ringleaders also face expulsion.
“The degree of involvement ranged from what we now know was a few students literally selling the clearance of absences to those who may have accepted having a few absences or tardies cleared by a friend or acquaintance who gained access,” the principal said in a statement.
Scuderi explained to the San Francisco Chronicle that the students charged $2 to $20 to erase a single dark mark on the attendance books. After realizing the hack, the school went through the records of all 3,200 students to determine whose records had been changed.
Berkeley High’s rigid attendance policy may have encouraged students to seek a workaround. The school hired a dean of attendance at the start of last semester and teachers were instructed to dock students’ grades if they had more than three unexcused absences. For a while, it appeared the policy was working: attendance climbed from 92% last year to 94% this year. But could it be that the numbers were padded thanks to some students fixing the numbers behind the scenes?