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Police say mom hacked school files to change kids' grades

Published July 20. 2012 08:23AM

A woman from Weisenberg Township, who was formerly employed by the Northwestern Lehigh School District, has been arrested for allegedly gaining access to the district's computer system to change her children's grades.

State police said they charged Catherine Venusto, 45, on Wednesday with three counts each of unlawful use of a computer and computer trespassing. She was arraigned before District Judge Robert C. Halal and is at liberty on $30,000 bail.

Venusto worked for the school district before her resignation in April 2011. During her employ, she was a secretary in the administration building, where part of her duties included overseeing the dissemination of passwords for employees to sign on to the computer system. Police said between the time she resigned her position and earlier this year, the woman used the password of Superintendent Mary Ann Wright to access the district's human resources system. The system, officials said, contains thousands of files.

Administration officials said they began to think there was an access problem when some teachers in the district reported they believed the superintendent had been accessing the grading system teachers use. Because Wright knew she had never entered the system, officials began an investigation of the matter.

On Feb. 24, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Holman reported it was actually Venusto who had accessed the system using the superintendent's password.

When police questioned the woman, she admitted accessing the files and changing her children's grades. Officials said her daughter went from a failing grade to a medical exception while her son's grade was changed from 98 to 99 percent.

Wright said officials are sure they were the only two grades that were changed in the system, which was shut down within three hours after it was learned there was a potential access problem.

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