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Durham School Leaders Speak Out on Grade-Changing Allegations

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DURHAM — Durham school administrators announced results Friday of a preliminary investigation into allegations that a student's grades were changed so that he could play football.

Superintendent Ann Delinger says, "Without revealing specific details of the student's academic record, I can report that although three grades were changed, we have no evidence that they were changed to affect the student's athletic eligibility."

The grades in question are those of Michael Williamson, who played on Hillside High School's football team.

His mother, Sheila Brandon-Williamson, says her son's grades were changed to make him eligible to play football. She also thinks that other students' grades were changed for the same reason.

Brandon-Williamson is not satisfied with the school system's findings.

"I think this is another example of political rhetoric and stonewalling," she says.

A broader inquiry into the grades of 200 students has not yet yielded any abnormalities.

Phil Kirk, the chairman of the N.C. School Board, wonders why Williamson would have even three grades changed.

"I'm glad there will be further investigation. I'm bothered about changing of grades for any reason, except making up tests," he says.

Parents we spoke with at Hillside High School would not comment about Williamson's specific case, but many believe grades are changed for athletes.

"I think they often times do, because it's a competitive sport, and it brings in revenue," says parent Jennifer Pinnix-Susong. "[Administrators and teachers] get overzealous, and they do change grades."

Two of Williamson's grades were changed by the principal, and one was changed by a teacher. It is legal for grades to be changed in North Carolina, but a willful, persistent practice of grade-changing violates the educator's code of ethics, set by the state's school board.


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