News

Local parents, Stanford coach indicted in college-admissions scandal

Nationwide FBI investigation uncovers alleged bribes in exchange for false athletic profiles, SAT and ACT scores

(Expanded version of an earlier story.)

Numerous local parents and a Stanford University coach are among the dozens indicted in a nationwide college-admissions investigation that involved alleged bribes totaling $25 million in exchange for help getting students into top universities, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston announced Tuesday.

At least one parent paid $6.5 million, according to federal prosecutors.

The wide-ranging case, dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues," is the "largest college-admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice," U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said at a press conference Tuesday.

Stanford head sailing coach John Vandemoer is one of 50 people indicted in the scandal, which involved rigging the admissions system to help the children get into the nation's elite universities. The scam included bribes, a sham charity organization, falsified athletic profiles and cheating on SAT and ACT scores, among other alleged crimes, Lelling said.

The other coaches were from Yale University, the University of Southern California, Wake Forest University and Georgetown University, among other universities, federal prosecutors said.

Among the indicted are 33 parents, whom Lelling called "a catalog of wealth and privilege." They include CEOs of private and public companies; securities and real estate investors; and the chair of a global law firm. Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, whose children were admitted to the universities, were also indicted.

"In return for bribes, these coaches agreed to pretend that certain applicants were recruited competitive athletes when in fact the applicants were not, as the coaches knew the student's athletic credentials had been fabricated," Lelling said.

The DOJ complaint charges six Midpeninsula residents with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud: Palo Alto residents Amy Colburn, 59, and Dr. Gregory Colburn, 61; Menlo Park residents Marjorie Klapper, 50, co-owner of jewelry business M&M Bling in Palo Alto, and Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, a packaged food entrepreneur; and Atherton residents Elizabeth Henriquez, 56, and Manuel Henriquez, 55, CEO of venture capital and private equity firm Hercules Capital in Palo Alto. (View a full list of the individuals indicted here).

Other Bay Area residents indicted have business and community ties with the Midpeninsula. Marci Palatella, 63, of Healdsburg, is a longtime donor to Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton where an athletic field was named after her family. She is the CEO of liquor distribution company Preservation Distillery in Kentucky and wife of Lou Palatella, a former player for the San Francisco 49ers.

Hillsborough residents Davina Isackson, 55, and Bruce Isackson 61, president of commercial real estate firm WP Investments in Woodside, were also charged.

Two SAT and ACT exam administrators, an exam proctor, a college administrator and nine coaches were also charged.

The exam administrators allegedly allowed a test taker to secretly complete the tests for the students or correct their answers after completing the exam, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Vandemoer was expected to plead guilty to a charge of information with racketeering conspiracy Tuesday afternoon in Boston, Lelling said. A federal court document dated March 5 indicates he was engaged in the alleged conspiracy from about 2016 to last February.

Newport Beach resident William "Rick" Singer, 58, the "alleged mastermind" behind the scheme carried out between 2011 and last month, also plans to plead guilty Tuesday in Boston. Singer, who has worked in the college counseling business, allegedly used his connections with Division I coaches and parents to create the fake athletic credentials. He has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

The coaches allegedly used the credentials to convince fellow athletic department staff that the admitted student was a good fit for their team, according to Lelling.

No students have been charged in the case nor have the universities to which they were admitted, Lelling said. A vast majority of the admitted applicants are current students.

In a statement Tuesday, Stanford University stated it has terminated Vandemoer's employment and is cooperating with the Department of Justice's investigation.

"The alleged behavior runs completely counter to Stanford's values," the university announcement stated.

The complaint against Vandemoer alleges he entered into agreements with Singer to designate two student applicants as Stanford sailing recruits. Those students, however, ended up not attending the university.

The first agreement was entered into in summer 2017, when one applicant was purported to be a competitive sailor. Last May, the student deferred his application for a year, and the Stanford sailing program received a $110,000 payment to list the recruit in the following year's cycle.

When the first deal fell through, Vandemoer allegedly agreed to give the same spot in the sailing program to another applicant for $500,000. The second recruit was listed as a competitive sailor but had "minimal sailing experience," and in the end didn't attend Stanford, according to the charging document. Vandemoer allegedly accepted $160,000 from Singer to use the funds "for a future student's purported recruitment."

Before his work termination, Vandemoer was in the middle of his 11th year as Stanford's head sailing coach, according to his profile on Stanford Athletics website. Under his tenure, the team won 29 of 30 Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference championships. He previously served as head coach for the U.S. Naval Academy from 2006 to 2008, when he led the Midshipmen to five national championship appearances.

Stanford stated it does not have evidence that other members of the university were involved in the alleged conspiracy, based on the federal investigation to date, and will conduct an internal review to ensure no other members of the university were involved.

Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell issued a [ https://quadblog.stanford.edu/2019/03/12/the-sailing-case-and-our-resolve/ statement through the "Notes from the Quad" blog, emphasizing that the alleged behavior by the indicted in the federal case are "absolutely contrary to Stanford's values, and to the norms this university has lived by for decades."

They detailed the university's admissions process, which considers a student's academic performance, extracurricular activity and "personal context" in selecting who is awarded admission. "Special talents," which includes athletics, is also factored in through coaches who pinpoint promising recruits to the admission office for review, but "by themselves never ensure admission to Stanford."

Tessier-Lavigne and Drell also wrote that they will make sure the university doesn't benefit from the funds made to the Stanford sailing program as part of the scheme.

As of Tuesday morning, 38 individuals have been taken into custody, seven are working toward surrendering to authorities and four are expected to plead guilty — two Tuesday and two others in the coming weeks, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta.

Hundreds of investigators have been looking into the allegations since last May as a result of an unrelated cover-up investigation. All the individuals charged played a role in "corruption and greed," Bonavolonta said. The case robbed students nationwide of getting a fair shot at attending elite universities, he said.

"Today's arrests should be a warning to others. You can't lie and cheat to get ahead because you will get caught," Bonavolonta said at Tuesday's press conference.

Singer allegedly set up a charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, through which to funnel the bribes, according to Special Agent in Charge Kristina O'Connell of the IRS Criminal Investigation in Boston. The contributions were deducted from the parents' federal income taxes, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Singer conducted his college counseling and preparation work through his business Edge College & Career Network LLC, which was also known as The Key, according to federal prosecutors. He allegedly told his clients to request their student take additional time on the test by claiming their child had learning disabilities, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. They were also told to change their test center to either one in Houston, Texas or West Hollywood, where there were two test administrators who took the bribes, around $10,000 per test, in exchange for allowing the cheating.

Parents paid between $250,000 to $6.5 million to make sure their students were admitted to a top university, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. A total $25 million in bribes was uncovered, according to federal prosecutors.

In one testimonial posted on The Key website, local parent Marci Palatella thanked Singer for his work with her son.

"My kid who could not read a poem in front of the class is now...in a comedy troupe!!! He is so happy about school! You were life changing for all of us," she wrote. "Your subtle style made us all comfortable, but it was your deep down encouragement that let him know there was hope for greatness. Bottom line is that you believed in him, and that made all the difference. For my kid to be getting A's plural... is incredible."

This is a continuing news story; more information will be added as it becomes available.

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Comments

88 people like this
Posted by the rich get richer
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 12, 2019 at 12:36 pm

And these families buying their way in, happen to be those that benefited most from last year's tax cuts for corporations and billionaires.

Swamp drained! (I used to vote republican, but never, ever again.)

Kick these cheaters OUT!


33 people like this
Posted by Admissions expert
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2019 at 1:40 pm

What is sad for me, as a long-time professional in this field (who's earned somewhat less than the $25mm Singer has collected) is that these parents, with Singer's help, deprived their children of the positive, powerful growth experience that a good admissions counselor can offer. Not to overlook the hit to the teens' self-esteem. Just a lot of rich people lacking ethics and common sense.


53 people like this
Posted by middle class
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 12, 2019 at 1:47 pm

In spite of the middle class receiving great tax breaks last year, the rich are still richer. And those rich, liberal Hollywood types think they have to cheat to get their kids into rich, liberal universities. How unfortunate for them and their children. The privileged class in CA are a bunch of Democrats. I used to vote Democrat, but no longer... yep, I say kick these cheaters out!


95 people like this
Posted by the rich get richer
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:02 pm

> In spite of the middle class receiving great tax breaks last year...

What? You mean when Paul Ryan said a woman's tax break would allow her to afford a Costco membership? ($70)

"Paul Ryan: "a secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year." Web Link

> And those rich, liberal Hollywood types

Look at the indictments - Hillsborough, Atherton, PA, etc.. Web Link

Look at the occupations - financial, real estate, tech bro's, etc.. Yes, two actors. Big whup.

All this from a poster who claims that the republican's tax cuts for corporations and billionaires are really just for the "the middle class." Nice try.

We do agree - kick the cheaters out and shame their parents through a trial. Prosecute the enablers.


50 people like this
Posted by Fear the Troll
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:07 pm

"In spite of the middle class receiving great tax breaks last year ..."

Stupid troll is as stupid troll does.


59 people like this
Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:11 pm

pogo is a registered user.

Why does everything have to have be tied to Trump? Don't you ever tire of it?

These were spoiled rich people accused of illegal acts. Most of these bribes occurred before Trump even ran for President.

You can blame Trump for a lot. This scandal isn't one of those things. In fact, you dilute and conflate the culpability of the accused by trying to blame others. Their bad acts are quite sufficient without having to tie them to Trump.


62 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 12, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Well done FBI for a difficult and well conducted investigation.


23 people like this
Posted by lnon
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 12, 2019 at 3:11 pm

Looks to me like a lot of entitled wealthy folks thought their kids were the same; wealthy and entitled. Bribery, cheating and lying are poor form whenever and wherever they take place. And an especially poor example to set for your kids. This has nothing to do with politics or President Trump. And it is nice to see the FBI investigating actual crimes with no seeming political overtones.


35 people like this
Posted by My 2 ...
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:04 pm

Yes... one could feel bad for the kids of the "rich people" although some were said to know about the scam...

Personally, I feel sorry for the students that applied and were worthy on their own merits that were denied because of the spoiled rich kids that stole their spots - That was certainly an impact on them too! how can that be rectified?


45 people like this
Posted by Erin
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:12 pm

As a mother of a student-athlete who trains 22+ hours a week and spends every second not doing that studying for school and the SAT, I am just disgusted. My child is up at 4:30 in the morning for morning practice and is up until past midnight every night of the week studying in order to work towards the goal of competing in college. (The pressure is so incredible-- Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin who was a graduate student at Stanford took her own life just days ago. In an article she penned in VeloNews prior to her death, she admitted "the truth is that most of the time, I don't make everything work. It's like juggling with knives..."). I am incredulous that there are parents and students so disrespectful of the work that she and all REAL student-athletes put in that they would actually fake a profile.

How could the coaches-- who only have a few spots for athletes and know how hard student-athletes have had to work to get to the collegiate level and juggle their academics and athletics -- do something like this? Well, I know the answer is greed, but I just can't believe it. It breaks my heart and makes me incensed all at once.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"According to NBC News, the FBI’s code name for the investigation was the undeniably excellent “OPERATION VARSITY BLUES.” According to the authorities, more than 200 federal agents launched investigations in six states after agents found evidence of fraud in a separate undercover investigation."

NBC News


4 people like this
Posted by Harry Turne
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Mar 12, 2019 at 4:54 pm

The Stanford athlete/admissions process is beset by myriad conflicts, the skeptical public, including Stanford alums. Stanford knows of all of them and its many processes for resolving them exist but are not fully disclosed. Cynics and friends deserve full, complete, untainted review and disclosure.
One way is for the University trustees to immediately crate and charge an entirely independent review commission.

I am a career University employee very knowledgeable of the processes, especially admissions, during the time of my commitments to Stanford. I admire Stanford and fully expect its complete disclosures to ethical and reassuring.
Still, all people have weaknesses.

Admirably and best expectations for the Commission's public results.
Harry Turner


23 people like this
Posted by About time!
a resident of Woodside High School
on Mar 12, 2019 at 5:53 pm

REALLY hope that they go back through all the donations received historically and expose this scam completely over the years. We all know children who gained places at Ivy's without any individual talent, and it's completely unfair and duplicitous to students who actually work hard and achieve in the face of adversity and challenges. Basing a student's future and career on the wealth of parents prepared to cheat, is not a good life example. College system for admissions needs complete transparency, and while they're at it 'legacy' needs investigation too. Just because parents went to a college, doesn't mean that's the best place for that student.


8 people like this
Posted by Manlo Punk
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:26 pm

Anyone surprised by all of this has just plain had their head in the sand. Money can, will and does buy anything.

Some self serving school president or board or politician will come out to say "we are taking steps to see this never happens again." Until the next time it happens, that is.

Equally disgusting are those people who get into so called prestigious institution only because they can dribble a ball, or throw a football better than anyone else. The majority of those I'd say could not hold a candle to those who are more than talented academically, yet are rejected.

When will that ever be fixed? No time soon, as long as big money is driving. No end in sight there.


71 people like this
Posted by AP
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 12, 2019 at 6:41 pm

Erin,
Your child is getting 4 1/2 hours of sleep a night. That is not a 'real' student-athlete, that is both unhealthy and a very very dangerous choice for a young person who will never be able to sustain it. I hope you will not brag any longer about your child's choices/lifestyle but instead get your child some immediate help. I am a local educator, not a troll, and this is really serious, so very serious, and I am reaching out to you from the bottom of my heart to ask you to invest in your child's long-term life, not this crazy, misguided dream our valley sells. Integrity is knowing yourself fully, respecting your limits, and living in truth--it can come in many forms and be broken in many others.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 12, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Equally disgusting are those people who get into so called prestigious institution only because they can dribble a ball, or throw a football better than anyone else. The majority of those I'd say could not hold a candle to those who are more than talented academically, yet are rejected. "

Stanford has always valued academics over athletics and its athletes are consistently the highest rated academically of any university in the NCAA.

"Through 2017-18, Stanford was equally prolific in the classroom, with 16 programs earning perfect 1,000 multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, measuring data collected over a span of four academic years. Additionally, 17 varsity teams earned APR Public Recognition Awards from the NCAA. The third year of the Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement (ACE) Program also yielded positive results, as 20 student-athletes joined their peers from Duke in a three-week, immersive summer service volunteer program with visits to South Africa, Vietnam, China and India. The Cardinal also was honored with 10 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, highlighted by Katie Ledecky’s selection as the Academic All-American of the Year."

Web Link


20 people like this
Posted by Leon Berger
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 12, 2019 at 7:52 pm

I got into Stanford in 1976 on merit, out of Sequoia High School. My mom had a 9th grade education. My dad was an electrician. They were supportive, but didn't push me at all. I just loved to learn. I was lucky to have had great teachers. I worked hard, I did volunteer work, I did extra-curriculars. I took my SATs without tutoring because I didn't know prep courses existed. I wrote my entrance exam in pen, a stream-of- consciousness first draft, right on my application. No one told me that might not be a good idea.

It makes me sick to think about the kids who deserved admission and were denied to make room for the children of these awful people. After the last 2 years of seeing increasingly despicable behavior by celebrities, our leaders and our peers in the media, I thought I was beyond disgust. This story proved me wrong.


43 people like this
Posted by beach and wine
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 12, 2019 at 9:23 pm

If it's a private university, it seems that they could set the admission standards to whatever they please. If they're going to throw merit out the window, why not just "sell" admission spots to the highest bidder? Then I'd know not to attend that university.

I sincerely hope that anyone accepting a bribe in return for a "cut in line" for acceptance outside of the legitimate application/acceptance process gets a huge fine and jail time. A message needs to be sent. Also agree with the poster above regarding the who child is, IMO, in a very dangerous place. Please be careful! It's all about balance.

Also, I agree this has nothing to do with trump, or tax cuts etc. I find that people expect way too much out of government, and that they are almost always less efficient than the private sector. Other than law enforcement, the government plays no role in this one. Glad they broke up this scheme, not surprised it's going on and I expect it will continue to go on...

Finally, being "rich" does not predispose someone to being a cheater. It's the hardworking that get richer - those who are willing to take legal risks that others are not, and deliver results through hard work. I taught in a big ten university and I can tell you with 100% certainty that there are some who try much harder than others, and it's usually those folks who work harder (and smarter) that find higher levels of achievement. Possessing good values (honesty, integrity etc) should be independent of income level, it's something we should all demand of ourselves and fellow citizens.


27 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 12, 2019 at 9:27 pm

And what about Meg Whitman and her large donations to Princeton to benefit the admission of her kids? And your own couple of grand to Stanford Alumni with that veiled hope of pushing your kid along?

It's either egalitarian and transparent, or bribery in all of its many forms. If Stanford and the other big ones want to act like a closed and corrupt club, then they do not deserve to have charitable status (like churches) as we're all paying for it in the end.

Don't encourage the bastards and send your kids to De Anza!


14 people like this
Posted by About time!
a resident of Woodside High School
on Mar 12, 2019 at 10:19 pm

@ really I went to one of the Stanford admission talks with my child several years ago. The speaker said 'you'll hear a lot of rumors about donations . . . here's what we think about donations. If it's below 7 figures, 'thanks''. I believe what she was saying was unless it's a million or above, your few thousand $$$ of donations won't cut it. I found it an amusing talk, but could see other parents visibly concerned. We applied elsewhere.


32 people like this
Posted by MAGA
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Mar 12, 2019 at 10:40 pm

Jared Kushner got into Harvard after his father made a $2.5 million "donation" to the school. This is how the rich get richer. MAGA.


8 people like this
Posted by Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 13, 2019 at 6:46 am

Let's all pray this is the beginning of the end of the Entitlement Era of child rearing. Parents not allowing their children to fail and holding them up as trophies "My child got into (amazing) university!"
I hear from another source that one of the parents involved has a child who got off on a more serious crime charge - no details other than he may be the next Bill Cosby... and mommy just keeps on letting him get his way.


20 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 13, 2019 at 7:05 am

What about the high schools ? Were they surprised that some of their students who were less academic were accepted into these colleges/ universities ? First hand these college counselors , teachers. & administrators should have know "something is up" & questioned something or someone knowing that other deserving students were either denied or wait listed . Besides parent paying an incredible amoun of money to the local private high schools as well as to this college admission counselor - I'll bet those kids went off to college in new BMWs


27 people like this
Posted by David B
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Wow, lots of comments on this one!

Isn't the real issue our society's insane focus on "top tier" colleges? It's out of control. I like that Julie Lythcott-Haims points out that even limiting yourself to the top 10% of colleges, that's over 400 choices; and Frank Bruni says "Where You Go is not Who You'll Be".

I encourage all local employers to help tamp down the focus on "elite colleges", by giving equal weight to applicants from other schools.


13 people like this
Posted by the rich get richer
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:55 pm

@pogo (beach & inon, as well) - you're the first one who brought Trump's name into it. I was just linking the insane tax cuts for corporations and billionaires to the mindset that also cheats to get their kids into a 'name' school.

Perhaps there was another 'name' school in the back of your head when you brought up Trump's name and fraud?

Hmmmm... lemme see... Trump, fraud and universities? What school could you possibly be thinking of???

Trump, fraud and university.

Gosh durnit, it's on the tip of my fingers!

Trump, fraud and university.

What could it be?!?!?


8 people like this
Posted by Koo Koo Kachoo
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 13, 2019 at 2:16 pm

The TDS is strong here...


Like this comment
Posted by Manlo Punk
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2019 at 6:17 pm

Mr. Carpenter, I hear what you're saying. But I'd bet if anyone took a good look the statistics would agree.

Best.


23 people like this
Posted by Not really
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 13, 2019 at 10:47 pm

"Jared Kushner got into Harvard after his father made a $2.5 million "donation" to the school. This is how the rich get richer. MAGA."

Jared's on track to follow his father's footsteps - to jail.


"Finally, being "rich" does not predispose someone to being a cheater. It's the hardworking that get richer - those who are willing to take legal risks that others are not, and deliver results through hard work."

There's no automatic correlation between hard work and wealth. Some hard working people get richer. Most hard working people do not. There are many roads to 'rich'. Hard-working is but one. This scandal proves the point.


5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 13, 2019 at 11:04 pm

It's time for all of us to recognize that at some level we are all players in the college admissions game. It's just a matter of "to what extent?"

When wealthy people do the best for their children, at times they are buying an advantage simply by helping their children. Hiring a private tutor 2x weekly for your child, buying an SAT prep class, having a college essay reader, are all advantages of the rich. Those of us with means to do it, usually do what we can to help our child. While it's human nature, it's worth noting the hypocrisy in what we are doing.

Let's all look in the mirror and see if we are a part of the problem. After reading this article, White progressive parents and the Conundrum of Privilege, I know that I am. I'm starting with admitting it and then moving to stop. It's hard work.


Web Link


35 people like this
Posted by local teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 13, 2019 at 11:10 pm

I am a local public school teacher. I want the community to know that cheating is on the rise. I've never seen so much pressure on students and kids are not using their moral compass to guide their decisions but justifying their cheating as necessary to "get the grade" to "get into the private high school" . to "get into the elite university".

I've had parents make donations to my classroom when their child has a A-, hoping for the bump. (email to follow the donation).

I've had parents defend their children's cheating and take me on as "destroying their chances" at X, Y, Z school by not looking the other way.

I've had children look me in the eye and lie about their school work without thinking twice about it and even lie to my face in front of their parents and the site administrator. I've had parents insist I apologize to their child for accusing him of cheating (even though the child and I both know what happened). Parents do a disservice to help their middle school children learn that they are above the school rules and code of conduct. Then they become above the high school honor code. As adults, they become above the law.... Hence the rise of white collar crime.

This is where it starts folks. If your twelve year old is comfortable lying, your 55 year old will be comfortable bribing.

Let's start by supporting our teachers, district administrators and school board members in teaching ethics as a part of the curriculum. We can take charge of doing it in public schools if parents are not going to do it at home. If we don't, we will be dependent on our FBI to police basic code of conduct (such as being who you say you are when you walk in to take a test). Really? We need the FBI to police this now?! SOS and get ethics into the curriculum before it's too late!


4 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2019 at 10:02 am

An old Dutch saying:

Money can create arrogance, and "Arrogance is Kissing the Devil's Ear."


2 people like this
Posted by GraceC
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:38 pm

What “local teacher” wrote should be printed out and distrubted in every kindergarten orientation in MP, Portola Valley and Woodside. My kids went through MP public schools a decade ago, but I saw firsthand as a volunteer parents who pushed and pushed so that their child got every advantage they could. There was always a reason, self esteem or getting into private middle school or private high school or my favorite- their 3rd grader’s D-1 basketball potential. I lived in a community that had local teachers living there, now it’s only lawyers or VC’s and a few old timers. This scandal isn’t surprising, I’m just surprised these people got caught.


6 people like this
Posted by editoratlarge
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:38 pm

editoratlarge is a registered user.

To “local” above regarding high schools, I’ve been thinking the same thing! When mediocre students get accepted to places like Georgetown and suddenly develop learning disabilities in 11th grade before the SATs, doesn’t the school notice???? These are small private prep schools where the admin is very involved with students and pride themselves on where grads go to college. I think there is some complicity there.


2 people like this
Posted by Harry Turner
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Mar 14, 2019 at 1:33 pm

1) The Stanford leadership is trustworthy and highly motivated by its core ethics to investigate itself.The Stanford President declared publicly that he would have all athletic programs investigated for evidence of fraudulent manipulation of the admissions process, that he described as “holistic”.

In this case, Stanford’s examination of itself is satisfactory to me, as are its focus on identifying and penalizing fraudulent applications. I don’t expect Stanford to be degraded by self-interest conflicts. Asking for an outside investigator would be premised on lack of trust in Stanford’s President and Provost. After some reflection I withdraw that previous assertion.

2) My core question when looking at a "student-athlete" is "is she or he a student first?" When I watch Stanford Women's Basketball players, I'm sure of it. Moreover, the monitoring and evaluation facts I've been seeking confirm that they are students first. Quoting Peter Carpenter:

"Stanford has always valued academics over athletics and its athletes are consistently the highest rated academically of any university in the NCAA.

"Through 2017-18, Stanford was equally prolific in the classroom, with 16 programs earning perfect 1,000 multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores, measuring data collected over a span of four academic years. Additionally, 17 varsity teams earned APR Public Recognition Awards from the NCAA.

Stanford's student-athletes are students first.





31 people like this
Posted by Stanford alum
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2019 at 2:45 pm

In full disclosure, I am in the first generation of my family to receive a bachelor's degree, and I have undergraduate (Stanford) and graduate (NYU) degrees from two very expensive top-tier private universities. That said, as a parent raising children in the Bay Area, I encountered parents at every school, both public and private, at every grade level who were missing the entire point of parenting, which is to raise a good and useful person who will live a meaningful life and contribute to their community and their world. This starts with modeling community-minded behavior for your child; which required you to teach your child that their individual needs are NOT more important than the needs of their neighbors, classmates and family. As a Stanford alum I have overhead too many conversations around here (no doubt by some of you on this thread) about how to get a child "ahead" of the game, rather than recognizing that it's not a game, it's a life shared with the lives of everyone we touch.

We don't need more self-important, privileged people in this world. We need more people who value community, who believe that it is their most fundamental obligation to share and to bring others along. I would not feel pride in seeing my child step on the backs of others, but I would be beaming to see my child give another a helping hand.


7 people like this
Posted by Vote With Your $$$
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2019 at 5:24 pm

One of the people named is from Menlo Park and owns a jewelry business. Her wares are carried at Romi Boutique in Palo Alto and online at Web Link. Please boycott this enterprise and encourage Romi Boutique to sever their relationship. Money is the only thing these people understand. Don't reward them by putting cash in their pocket.


8 people like this
Posted by Criminal
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 14, 2019 at 5:26 pm

There is a big difference between criminal behavior and poor ethics. Donating millions to get a potential spot is ethically unjust, but totally legal. Bribing coaches and exam proctors to cheat is clearly a criminal act. The court documents state that over 750 students gained admission this way through the company that was charged. The feds only had enough solid evidence to charge around 50 so far, but more are coming.

There is no way most of the students weren't aware what was going on. If a B or even A- student with no significant extracurriculars gets admitted to a top tier college, something shady was going on. Avg gpas admitted to top schools these days are all over 4.0 thanks to APs. The teens must know their parents pulled some strings, legally or not. I hope the students are expelled and more low and middle income students take their spots.

The benefits that athletes get on their applications is also unjust. Some boost sure, but I would want any student that was passionate and successful in a non-athletic pursuit to have the same boost as an athlete.

My 2cents as the first college grad in my family, accepted at a top tier college on merit only.

Not proud of America today.



7 people like this
Posted by Carole F
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 16, 2019 at 6:48 am

Yes. We have a bunch of cheaters in our midst, but ACT accommodation abuse is ramped across USA.

About 2% of students could be expected to receive testing accommodations. In New Trier Illinois 24% do.

Why does this matter?
- One kid takes the ACT in 3 hours in a gymnasium with 500 other kids, and scores 25.
- Meanwhile a kid with an accommodation can take it in a private room over 4 days and get a 32.

Whether the accommodation is legit, or not colleges are NEVER told that one kid had all that time.

Take all the time you need... but come on... at least let the colleges know.

Web Link


11 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 17, 2019 at 11:40 am

The high schools need to be held accountable too for “overlooking” the cheating & lying. The student that cheated on her SAT at Notre Dame was also supposedly their tennis star too! But, she never went to practice or played in a game…..I guess when your parents can write large checks to that high school they turn a blind eye. I can’t image the school was ignorant of what happened when this student was accepted into Georgetown. Notre Dame was either purposey turning a blind eye or completely incompetent. High Schools benefit from this corruption because they can promote how their students are accepted into top colleges. This deception and illegal activity must stop!!


2 people like this
Posted by Rosy
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 20, 2019 at 6:34 pm

@Carol F please listen to yourself and how much you come across as prejudiced against kids with disabilities. My son has ASD1 and struggles with taking tests at speed in a room full of other kids with rustling papers and erasers making eraser noises and calculators banging on desks and coughing and shuffling and all those things that teenagers do.

He gets accommodations that he needs. I felt no obligation to disclose his disability to colleges. Are you serious? There’s a reason HIPAA laws exist and a reason we have the ADA. ASD isn’t a unique extracurricular activity; it’s a disability. Do you really think a college is going to take a disabled kid over a neurotypical one? I can answer that for you: No, they will not. That’s why we didn’t disclose his disability on his college applications. And why we didn’t have to.

I’m sorry some parents and kids game the system. They’ve really screwed things up for families like mine and created an environment where people like you will always question why some kids get the “advantage” of extra time. Trust me, my son would have gladly taken the ACT without extra time if it meant he could have “normal” social skills and less anxiety around sharing his thoughts. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg for all the challenges he faces.

All of you out there who worry that my son is taking your kid’s spot at Stanford or Harvard because he got extra time on the ACT—and NAILED IT—can chill out. He’s at a school that works for kids like him.

Carol F, please reflect on the damage that can be caused by demanding that kids give up their right to privacy.


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