Tampering Teachers and Bad Crisis Management

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    How one student shamed his district

    Breaking into their school’s computer database isn’t usually a sign of a good student, but when senior Jacob Bigham used a teacher’s password to gain access to Troy High’s records, it wasn’t to change grades or cause mischief. Rather, Bigham was on the hunt for the vote count from the recent student elections in order to determine whether he had really lost the election for the student government vice-presidency at the Fullerton school.

    Reporter Scott Martindale, reporter for local newspaper the OC Register, described Bigham’s find, as well as the result of his revelation:

    Bigham revealed in April that the candidates whom student-government faculty adviser Jenny Redmond named as student-body president and vice president for 2012-13 weren’t the top vote-getters. He also confessed that he used a faculty password to break into a Web-based school database from his home computer.

    Bigham was immediately suspended for five days, stripped of his current post as student-body secretary and barred from assuming the student-body vice presidency he’d won for 2012-13. Redmond continued teaching the student-government class for the remainder of the school year.

    The story doesn’t end there though. The OC Register had taken notice of the controversy, and the interest of the media quickly drew in district bigwigs, who announced an investigation, then clammed up, giving plenty of time for damaging rumor and innuendo to fly.

    The result of the investigation? The district decided that “some Troy staffers had been under the mistaken belief that Troy’s student-government constitution granted administrators the unilateral authority to alter the results of student voting.”

    The fact that this statement like this was actually released shows the sheer lack of crisis management training among Fullerton district leadership. Because anyone with half a brain knows that nobody is supposed to tamper with election results, the statement begs the question, are the faculty members involved really that dumb, or is the whole system corrupt?

    Either way, Troy High and the Fullerton school district have lost the trust and respect of their students and community at large.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training, and co-host of The Crisis Show. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]