Mom Hacks Into School Computer System, Changes Her Kids’ Grades

Helicopter parents be warned: this behavior could land you in prison

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Talk about helicopter parenting. It’s one thing to do your children’s homework for them. But when you decide to take matters into your own hands and change their grades yourself, well, that’s when law enforcement gets involved.

(MORE: Failing Student Forced to Wear Sign Broadcasting Bad Grades)

A Pennsylvania woman faces six felony charges for doing just that. Catherine Venusto, 45, hacked into the Northwestern Lehigh School District computer system and altered the grades of her two children, ABC News reports. Venusto had worked at the district as an administrative office secretary from 2008 through April, 2011. A year before she quit, Venusto, of New Tripoli, Penn., had been accused of changing her daughter’s failing grade to a medical exception. And in February, 2012, she was accused of changing her son’s 98 to a 99 to help him get a student scholarship and student loan.

Venusto was arraigned this week on three counts of unlawful use of a computer and three counts of computer trespassing and altering data. All six of those charges are third degree felonies. State police said she admitted to changing the grades, but thought her actions were merely unethical— not illegal. According to District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Debbie Garlicki, Venusto could face up to 42 years in prison or a $90,000 fine if convicted.

MORE: Behavior: Report Cards Can Hurt You

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jakesyl
jakesyl

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Abeer
Abeer

 42 years for just changing grades. O,o

Steve Matsukawa
Steve Matsukawa

I find it very amusing the continuing 'flame wars' over whether this scumbag hacked, cracked or used her own or someone else's credentials.  So much arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. 

The main thrust of the article is that this moron of a mother had to change her children's grades for whatever useless reasons she had.  Which is just plain wrong.

Steve Matsukawa
Steve Matsukawa

What kind of person would do something that is not only unethical but is illegal.  I bet this lady is a fine upstanding christian or catholic.  I know that this woman's behavior will be applauded by idiots and scumbags such as republicans and Penn State boosters and alumni.  This is what America is coming down to, how to scam the system.

LOL!  

theworldofmarla
theworldofmarla

Changed a 98 to a 99? I think her kids are smarter than she is. 

sam
sam

The punishment is very severe, 42 years... God! too much. 42 for 6 counts thats is 7 years for feach. Even I thought it would not be that much. I wonder how much punishment those professional hackers get when caught????

I believe the state should not be so severe, if she has a clean record, the state should show leniency. Afterall her purpose was not criminal. She was just being a caring "MOM" who would do anything for her children.

Dalek Caan
Dalek Caan

Watch her get 42 years and the Libor bankers get a payoff.

Harry Couture
Harry Couture

Seriusly 42 years for changing a 98 to 99?  What the fuck! people steal and kill and they get much less than that.

Frank
Frank

a 98 to a 99! seriously!

Joe Golden
Joe Golden

You can molest a child and get 2 years in prison.  But BEWARE! - If you change their grades you'll get 42 years!

varis
varis

42 years in prison? Was she sexually molesting her children while changing their grades?

RWFG
RWFG

One point!

She put her ass in jail for one lousy point. 

BitShare
BitShare

42 yrs, that is ridiculous. Hopefully she just gets community service and the kids aren't penalized too bad for their mother's actions.

AustinShea
AustinShea

Why does this article not discuss what is meant by the term "hack." 

Are we truly meant to believe that she was breaking the security systems put in place by massive technology companies?

Passwords in public schools tend to be very public, and are routinely re-used.

I think it's disingenuous to suggest that this person hacked their way into a system. 

If a computer system is a house, hacking's closest equivalent would be breaking-and-entering. If someone tells you their password, it's like being given a duplicated key.

She didn't break her way into anything.

AustinShea
AustinShea

Wow. Talk about a lack of understanding. 

She worked at the school, and is probably a sweet and innocent person. Why do I think that? She changed her child's grade by an objectively insignificant amount. I'm gonna bet that one point meant the world to her son, though.

Mothers that care this much, and are capable of raising grade A students, need NOT to have their innocence shattered by this judicial nonsense.

AustinShea
AustinShea

Wow. Talk about a lack of understanding. 

She works at the school, and is probably a sweet and innocent person. Why do I think that? She changed her child's grade by an objectively insignificant amount. I'm gonna bet that one point meant the world to her son, though.

Mothers that care this much, and are capable of raising grade A students, need NOT to have their innocence shattered by this judicial nonsense.

ComGenSupreme
ComGenSupreme

Our laws are designed to punish "big time", the little person, while the wealthy elite hire lawyers to make up these laws and they buy the votes that get them enacted. Welcome to America the ugly!

ComGenSupreme
ComGenSupreme

No, really, 42 years and 90K in fines for being a cheater. Yes, lets teach this "woman" a lesson, lets throw the book at her. Someone has to be held up to ridicule for the cheating they've done - this woman is a good target. It helps to avoid the debacle on Wall Street and Washington (think FDA and all the rest of the scum in DC), since "none" of them were charged with anything. I think this woman should pay the full price for all of their sins.

Please help me to stop vomiting....

DailyPUMA
DailyPUMA

"She thought her actions were unethical, not illegal". Hey, that excuse is reserved for John Edwards, politicians in general, and wall street financial terrorists.  For the rest of us, if its unethical, it is illegal.

clayt0njknight
clayt0njknight

It's not hacking if you have the password.

More hype-building bullshit...  And she won't do 42 years.  At most she'll do a year of probation.

wdg6731
wdg6731

I agree with the severity of the fine but don't believe this is an offense for which she should be jailed. If her children received any academic scholarships, they should also be rescinded. 

TR!4D
TR!4D

98 to 99? Why not go for the 100, justsayin :P

Lawrence Bujak
Lawrence Bujak

How to instill Christian Family Values…  Next she will say ‘god’ told her to do it.

bosco
bosco

I almost fell off my chair when I read this

"she admitted to changing the grades, but thought her actions were merely unethical— not illegal."

45 year old and it comes to this. People who engage in civil disobedience know they might be breaking the law but they did it because their morality dictates it

Mrs Venusto should know, her action was neither legal nor ethical. Worse, it is both a terrible example for her kids and may have serious repercussions with her "short-cut" approach... Just a little edge, like Enron, Madoff and PFGBest

Hiro
Hiro

I hope they just make her pay the $90,000 and put it to good use.  Putting her in jail for 42 years is just a massive waste of tax money.

Hamid Ashouri
Hamid Ashouri

She did what she supposed to do and I honor her courage to do so. I may do worse If I were in her shoes.

Gary B
Gary B

I don't know why she went to the trouble. All she had to do was ask someone in admin to change the grades. They do it all the time behind teachers' back, especially for top athletes, family, friends, et al. I'm still very curious about a student who failed my English class and absolutely had to have the English credit to graduate but graduated anyway. I inquired about it but was told it was not my business. Another teacher, an excellent teacher who was in her first year at this large mainstream school and without contract, was not offered a contract because she caught "the" top football player cheating and refused to change his grade in spite of the vice-principal's stern edict that "that's an administrative decision." US Schools are not about education; they're about feathering administrative career nests. End that and US education will start start to climb out of the awful pit that it's in. The US can't make the top 25 in education among developed countries worldwide. And it's not the teachers' fault! If it is, then who hired such awful teachers? Duh. The way out is to completely change school management. No decisions about students can be unilateral but must include the voices of all stakeholders (teachers, parents, students, support staff) from an administrative board (not to be confused with current "cosmetic" "needy-people" boards) that is selected by all stakeholders. Two year term limits for board members would be essential.  Principals and vice principals can be replaced by business managers and the secretaries who run schools anyway. Just look at the "beginning" of the savings to taxpayers whose children are being defrauded out of an education in a blisteringly competitive world.   

Amanda Johnson
Amanda Johnson

Okay, so one of the times she went to all that effort to change a 98 to a 99? I can't figure that one out. Unless maybe she used that time as a test to see if anyone would notice. Otherwise I don't know why she would even bother.

Jamie Gilchrist
Jamie Gilchrist

Does no one else find it strange that its either 42years or a $90,000  finelol...I mean thats a big difference.. is that the value thats placed on our time... Thats why the rich just use some vouchers and go free... I mean money is vouchers?? its just the shop is bigger!!  ;)

Talendria
Talendria

This poor woman is being railroaded.  In two years of snooping through the school's records, she only changed two grades, and in neither case was the change significant.  One grade went from a 98 to a 99, and another grade went from an F to a medically excused F.  It's not like she put an underachiever on the honor roll.

In addition, she didn't "hack" into the system.  In her capacity as the administrative secretary, she was responsible for setting up the superintendent's password.  After Ms. Venusto resigned, the superintendent failed to change the password.  It cracks me up when these executive types think they're too important to manage their own logins.

Ms. Venusto appears to have diminished mental capacity.  When asked to explain her actions, she claimed to be bored and curious.  She wasn't trying to finagle scholarships for her children.  She was just logging into a website because she could.  Clearly she needs to be punished in some fashion, but 42 years?  Rapists and murderers get less jail time.  At this point the school district hasn't identified anyone (other than her own children) who was harmed by Ms. Venusto's ill-conceived actions.

Jim O'Neill
Jim O'Neill

I have read many of the posts and am surprised that so many think this is not a serious crime.  Altering grades is the same as altering someone's resume.  It is a record of what a person has done in the past.  It is a record of personal accomplishment. 

To alter that, also alters the decisions that others make when issueing scholarships or other awards.

Some jail time is warranted in this case.  The word needs to get out that this is not acceptable and the punishment for it is serious. 

happy_noodle
happy_noodle

Hey, Sam Grossman and Time:

It's not "hacking" when you have full access to a computer system.  That's like saying I "hacked" into my computer to illegally download something.

Her actions of altering the grades were illegal, but not her actions of accessing her children's grades, which she had full access to as an administrative office secretary of the school system.