A bill introduced in the New Jersey Assembly in response to the Eastside High School basketball scandal calling for the prohibition of “buying, selling, making or altering high school transcripts with the intent to deceive” advanced on Monday.
Introduced by assembly education chairwoman Marlene Caride, who represents towns in Bergen County and Passaic City, the bill sets a $1,000 penalty for each violation.
“If they were tampering with transcripts for sports they can tamper with transcripts for everything else,” Caride said. “It shouldn’t be used to manipulate so a school district can get ahead in a sport’s event.”
Caride introduced the bill in response to the Star-Ledger’s reporting that detailed overseas players were used by coaches in Paterson for an edge in basketball. Retired New Jersey Supreme Court judge John Wallace in a 250-page investigation report into the allegations against the high school determined “someone intentionally altered” the transcript of foreign students.
Wallace wrote the transcript tampering matter may be a criminal offense. His report concluded the transcript of a Nigerian student that was presented to Eastside High School was “intentionally altered.” His report further concluded, “Importantly, I found no evidence, other than a mistake in an effort to clarify a grade, that anyone from Paterson Public School District altered…transcript.”
The retired judge also found the transcript listed the student attended St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Nigeria; however, he determined the student in question attended Genesis Prep in Idaho for the 2015-16 school year.
The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice opened an investigation into the case, according to a report in the Star-Ledger.
The district fired two coaches Juan Griles and Alberto Maldonado. It suspended girls’ basketball coach Ray Lyde, Jr.
Athletics supervisor Gregory Cooper was fired and Patty Granados, a secretary at the registration office, has been barred from her seasonal part-time job at the district. Eastside High School principal Karen Johnson was forced to retire.
Wallace found the school failed to comply with New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) rules. The scandal emerged when reporters observed student athletes exiting Griles’ apartment and walking to the Park Avenue high school.
Griles had temporary guardianship of five student athletes. One complained about poor living condition and lack of food, according to news reports. Wallace’s report says, “at first blush [the arrangement] raises suspicions of whether he is doing this for an athletic advantage.”
Two of the students were his godsons and three were foreign students he accepted as a “humanitarian gesture,” says Wallace’s report. Wallace’s report says Griles’ intent in accepting temporary guardianship of the athletes was not to seek an athletic advantage.
The bill sets a civil penalty of $1,000 for each offense. The bill has a long-way to go before it can become law.
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This report was updated on June 5th, 2017 at 3:47 p.m.