Chapel Hill, N.C. — Local colleges and universities have contacted Chapel Hill High School requesting the names of students involved in a cheating scandal, Principal Jackie Ellis said Thursday.
"Legally, we are required to respond to that, and we do, and we feel like it's the right thing to do," she said.
Ellis also said as many as 11 students have been implicated to two incidents. The initial one involved a student in a classroom who took a cell-phone photo of an answer key for a test and distributed it to four to six other students.
Upon investigation, five other students then confessed to having master keys to the school, Ellis said. She said she believes the keys have been circulating for about two years.
"This is extremely sad. It's unfortunate," Ellis said. "Chapel Hill High School is legendary."
School officials have three of the keys, but it's still unclear how many more the might be or how students got them.
"It's just a lot of stories out there," Ellis said. "It's very hard to nail down, at this time, how they got the key."
The school's assistant principal and school resource officer from the Chapel Hill police have been able to implicate two students who have come into the building, and they continue to investigate other reports.
All exterior school doors are in the process of being re-keyed, Ellis said. New master keys will be issued to only a few people.
"Does that mean other keys aren't floating out there? No, of course not," she said. "Our hope is that as we secure the building, we're going to alleviate some of it."
Ellis notified parents of the situation last Thursday in an e-mail message. Earlier this week, officials said they had only been able to identify four students. They face out-of-school suspension and a zero grade on the test in question.
Other students could be punished as they are implicated, but Ellis said the school does not plan to file charges.
"It is a school issue. We are handling the situation internally," she said. "We have disciplined appropriately."
Ellis expressed confidence that the school could weather the cheating incidents.
"We are going to move forward, not by ignoring it, but by investigating it and finding out exactly what the truth is," she said.