In the aftermath of the cheating scheme involving students at Corona del Mar High School, 11 were expelled from the school and the private tutor accused of assisting them remains at-large.
As the clock ticked past five hours of closed-session deliberation, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustees re-emerged early Wednesday morning to announce their approval of the district administration's recommended punishments for each of the students.
"The Board of Education has weighed each of the cases presented this evening on an individual basis and in careful detail," Karen Yelsey, school board president, said. "As a [board], we are unanimous in our resolve to ensure the academic integrity of CdM and the district, as well as in delivering justice for the cases before us."
CdM Principal Kathy Scott had suggested in early January that the district begin the expulsion process, said Laura Boss, district spokeswoman.
After that, district officials met with the students and their families to reach agreements about potential discipline. The administrators drafted stipulated expulsion agreements with the families and sent them to the board for approval.
Trustees approved stipulated expulsions for the students, which forbid them from returning to CdM, but allow them to transfer to another high school in the district.
The students' records will also be sealed for the time that they are in the public school system, sources said.
It is unclear if and how the students' grades will be altered by the district to compensate for the alleged cheating.
The stipulated expulsion agreements allow the district to bypass hearings where officials would be required to provide evidence of the students' cheating and allow them to respond. Under the agreements, the parents also agreed not to challenge the punishments in court.
Six of the 11 students involved have already left the district, Yelsey said.
While six of the recommendations were approved unanimously, board members Katrina Foley, Dana Black and Judy Franco were the only trustees to vote against any of the recommendations. Foley voted against four, Black against five and Franco against four.
"Every case had different facts and circumstances and different stipulated terms," Foley said in an interview. "I did not support some of the terms agreed to in some of the stipulated expulsion agreements."
It is unclear whether the students' college applications will be affected because the school district does not send disciplinary records to colleges unless they are requested.
If a college requests a certain record, the school district would provide it with parental permission, Boss said.
Parents and community members addressed the board before trustees made their decision.
Randy Zuckerman, a Los Angeles resident, spoke to the crowd on behalf of the families of three of the 11 students.
The three students Zuckerman spoke about did not participate in the changing of grades, he said, but were aware of the cheating.
"Knowing cheating is taking place is not reason enough to be expelled," he said after closed session. "These kids are humiliated. They can't unring this bell."
Other parents, such as Yolanda Newton, stressed to trustees the importance of sending a message to students by refusing to allow them to transfer within the district.