School administrators said they learned about the alleged cheating through a tip on campus. They say they are aware of about a dozen students involved, but that the scope could be broader. Parents say they received an email Tuesday night telling them that some students may have hacked into the system in order to change grades and access tests.
News of the alleged cheating scandal is spreading across campus.
"I think it's pretty cool. I know Bill Gates, I believe, used to hack into classes and put himself in the class with the most women in it when he was in high school. So I think it takes a lot of aptitude to be able to get into the system," said student Mitch Evans.
But district administrators and teachers aren't impressed, and now a group of students could face criminal charges. The Newport Beach Police Department is investigating the case.
The district says the students may have had help from a private tutor who taught them how to use a hacking device. Newport-Mesa Unified School District spokeswoman Laura Boss says the breach has left them saddened and disappointed.
"The teachers, when we met with them yesterday to share with them the information, they were extremely concerned that students would violate their trust in this way," said Boss.
While some parents say they are shocked, others say they're not surprised.
"I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner with everything that the kids can do these days. If you go on the Internet, accounts are always hacked, especially vital information," said parent Jackie Evans.
Other parents expressed disappointment that students would stoop so low.
"I think it's unfortunate that they went to those means to get the grades. I understand the pressure. These kids, they want to get into good colleges. Unfortunately, they went about it the wrong way, so it's tragic for sure," said parent Ruth Snyder.
As for one senior, he's glad he was unaware of the whole thing and wasn't faced with a cheating choice.
"Realistically, I guess obviously I think the option pops into everyone's head, but I guess in the long run, hoping myself I would say no," he said.
One former community college professor believes parents and teachers should share part of the blame.
"I think that we as adults have a responsibility to show them that is not an answer and that if they cheat, they will get caught up later on," said Marjorie Luesebrink.
The tutor could also face criminal charges. Investigators are looking into whether the tutor works in other school districts as well. At this point, it's not clear what the students' punishment will be.