Grade changing scandal uncovered at Furr High School as part of investigation into principal

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Grade changing scandal uncovered at Furr High School (KTRK)

Houston ISD confirms an investigation launched into Furr High School uncovered grades that were changed, in some cases in order to pass students at the end of the semester.

Principal Bertie Simmons was relieved of duties back in October after allegations of inappropriate conduct.

Houston ISD maintains that they are unable to comment on Dr. Simmons' employment status because it is a personnel matter.

However, they confirmed that the investigation conducted by HISD's outside attorneys into concerns about student attendance, grades, and transcripts revealed that Furr High School administrators engaged in grade changing.

Many of those accusations are not sitting well with parents.

"They're supposed to know what they're doing," parent Lorena Quiros said. "What the kids are doing if they're passing, or either cheating, or the teachers are doing something else besides that."

The investigation revealed, among other things, that:
* Grade changes that did not comply with the state law concerning the finality of a teacher's grade were made. In some instances, grades for classes were changed by administrators without the knowledge of the teachers who taught the classes.

* Teachers were instructed not to assign grades below 50 percent, regardless of student performance or completion of assigned tests and assignments.

* Grades were changed at the end of the semester for the purpose of what appeared to give students passing grades that the students had not earned.

* Attendance records were changed for unauthorized reasons and credits were awarded for classes when students had not met the attendance requirement.

District officials say they are addressing these matters to ensure students receive appropriate instruction.

Eyewitness News spoke to Simmons on the phone, and she said the grade changing allegations just are not true.

Her attorney sent us this statement:

"HISD's 'investigation' always was and remains a farce designed to justify its illegal discrimination and retaliation against Dr. Simmons. It is HISD's Board of Trustees and HISD administrators who should be investigated for their illegal conduct and for continuing to place their selfish interests above the students' and the taxpayers. Dr. Simmons very much looks forward to holding HISD accountable for its illegal conduct in a court of law."

In letters obtained previously by ABC13, an allegation was made that Simmons failed to adhere to the district's decision to relax student dress code for the first semester following Hurricane Harvey and that she "verbally threatened students with a baseball bat."

Simmons' attorney, Scott Newar, at the time said the claim that she threatened students with a baseball bat was false.

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"As you well know, Dr. Simmons is 83 years old and approximately 5 feet tall. Therefore, it defies credulity and common sense that Dr. Simmons could objectively threaten anyone -- let alone high school students with a baseball bat," Newar said.
Simmons has served as principal at Furr High School since 2000. She's credited with dramatically turning the school around academically. The school was awarded a $10 million grant from XQ Project partly due to her initiative to reduce violence and enforce a strict uniform policy.

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Her attorney also added that Simmons felt that a relaxed uniform policy would cause an increase in gang activity and possible gang violence.
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