A prestigious Vancouver independent school finds itself caught up in a high-profile U.S. academic scandal.
St. George's has announced that it's conducting an internal investigation following a criminal indictment being issued against 50 people, including Vancouver businessman David Sidoo, in an alleged conspiracy to get their kids into U.S. colleges and universities.
But so far, there's no word from Education Minister Rob Fleming that there will be a provincial probe of the boys school.
Sidoo, a former Canadian Football League player, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. It's in connection with alleged payments to a person who sent someone in to take exams on behalf of Sidoo's sons with the sons' fake identification.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The indictment claims that Sidoo agreed to pay $100,000 for his older son to take the test after emailing copies of the son's driver's licence and student identification card to a co-conspirator. This allegedly enabled the older son to be admitted to Chapman University in Orange, California.
The indictment also alleges that the Vancouver businessman agreed to pay a person to "secretly take a high school graduation exam in place of Sidoo's older son".
The son attended St. George's.
There was another alleged payment for someone to take the SAT exam in place of Sidoo's younger son. After the test was taken, applications on the son's behalf were sent to Yale, Georgetown University, and University of California – Berkeley, where he was admitted.
Province has jurisdiction to investigate
B.C. has an inspector of independent schools, Theo Vandeweg.
Under provincial legislation, the inspector "may authorize a person to inspect and evaluate independent schools, the operations of an authority, educational programs", and other areas.
This inspector also has authority to enter a school building and "inspect any record of an authority relating to the operation or administration of the independent school".
Furthermore, the inspector can "examine the achievement of students".
In addition, the provincial government has the authority to cancel the certificates of independent schools.
On its website, St. George's brags that it has "an extraordinary university placement rate".
Moreover, the school declares: "100% of our 160+ graduates receive over 740 acceptances to over 140 universities worldwide and in excess of $2 million in scholarships."
Some of these students, no doubt, were admitted to B.C. universities.
If it turns out that someone has taken a high school graduation exam in place of a St. George's student, it raises all sorts of questions.
Only a truly independent investigation can clear the air.
Fleming needs to get onto this immediately.
And if problems are identified, the education minister will also have to consider whether this probe needs to be extended to other independent schools.
St. George's issued a statement on March 13 saying that it has conducted a thorough internal investigation.
"A review of records from 2012 indicates that there were no school or provincial exams written at St. George's School by the student in question on or around the date named in the indictment," it stated. "The school has no further information to share at this time."More