Report: Grades, attendance records altered for Newburgh student-athletes

NEWBURGH, Rockland County (WABC) -- Investigators have found that student-athletes at a school district in Orange County regularly skip class, but their attendance records and grades were regularly changed to passing.

Now officials are calling for changes to stop the problems in Newburgh.

"This is a complete systematic failure from the top down and it needs to be remedied," said Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler.

The words from the DA were harsh, though their impact remains to be seen.

An investigation by an Orange County grand jury into the Newburgh city school district has yielded two key findings: chronic absenteeism among high school student-athletes, and the changing of grades to make sure those athletes remained eligible to play.

"In order to excel in the classroom, in order to excel on the field, you should be required to at least be in the classroom," said Hoovler.

The issue is not new in Newburgh. For nearly 10 years, there have been complaints that athletes routinely skipped school and had attendance records changed but received passing grades by manipulating online testing software.

"It's an unfortunate situation, especially if they have policies and procedures in place, they need to enforce them because the betterment of the children," said parent Laasia Baldwin.

The report, though exhaustive, is largely toothless because no one will be charged criminally. The DA says there isn't enough evidence to prosecute anyone.

"You would have to have specific evidence that someone at the top was specifically trying to hide this, and in this particular case we didn't find that," Hoovler said.

In the end, the grand jury says oversight is needed, recommending independent monitors be hired to oversee attendance and the online learning program.

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