No doubt Caroline Maria McNeal of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, wanted to do the very best for her daughter Brittany. Unfortunately, as school secretary at Huntingdon Area High School, she took it a step too far.
The state attorney general Thursday filed 29 criminal complaints of unlawful use of a computer and 29 counts of unlawful altering of public records against McNeal involving improving her daughter's test scores in a case dating back to 2007 when Brittany was a junior at the high school.
McNeal didn't hack into the computers. She obtained the passwords from fellow workers, according to the complaints filed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett. School officials discovered the grade tampering early and corrected the mother's actions prior to her daughter's graduating class in 2008.
Scores provided directly by the College Board showed a cumulative score of 1370, while an unknown source had previously entered 1730, according to court papers. Further investigation revealed that the data had been entered from Caroline McNeal's computer starting more than a week before SAT scores for other students were entered. Other test results indicated the mother lowered results and class ranking of at least two students.
The McNeal's do not have a listed telephone number and school officials were told by the AG's office not to comment. Brittany took no part in the scam, Corbett's press release said.
The case caught my attention as an example of bad parenting. It's one thing to be protective and nurturing of a child. It's quite another to cheat. What possible benefit would a child gain through cheating rather than facing life's future on her own ability?
I confess this is borderline psychobabble but too often we see parents who will go to extreme lengths to achieve a world through their eyes and not that of the child. Parenting of teenagers, in particular, is difficult to say the least.
As a boy, I lived in fear of failing my father, a stern disciplinarian. I rebelled as a teenager and did stuff just to offend him. As a father, I took a different approach. I considered myself a U.S. Senator, using the advise and consent approach to parenting and let the chips fall where they may. It must have worked. As a father, my son took the best attributes of his mom and dad, discarded the bad ones, and created a parental environment for my grandchildren that I envy.
There are certain things in today's parenting culture that make me cringe. The idea a kid receives a trophy simply by participating in class or a team sport dilutes the value of our competitive nature. Parents are at their worst enabling bad behavior by their children. But, cheating is intolerable.
Caroline McNeal's mommy-knows-best syndrome will cost her dearly. Each of the 29 counts is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine, said Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Corbett's office. For Brittany's sake, wherever she is, I hope the punishment is less severe.
Since the case has been brewing for two years, I would think the mother has had time to realize the errors of her ways. Perhaps community service and probation would be appropriate.