34 Search Warrants Served At Columbus City Schools

34 Search Warrants Served At Columbus City Schools
34 Search Warrants Served At Columbus City Schools

Investigators served a number of search warrants at various Columbus City schools on Thursday morning.

A source close to the investigation told 10 Investigates that at least 34 warrants were served. At least 17 schools were visited by authorities.

Chopper 10 and 10TV News crews on the ground captured video of officials at Beechcroft High School, Independence High School, Centennial High School, Linden-McKinley High School, Marion-Franklin High School and Northland High School.

The warrants were sealed, but investigators collected evidence connected to the grade changing scandal uncovered within the district, according to sources.

10 Investigates revealed that investigators are currently looking into questions about whether district employees changed student grades for bonuses.

A source close to the investigation, but unable to comment publicly, told 10 Investigates that the Ohio Auditor's Office was looking for files related to the grade changes.

In February, 10 Investigates found school district records that showed hundreds of grades were changed from Fs to Ds.

On Thursday, 10 Investigates revealed an email between the state auditor's chief investigator and the district's internal auditor.

It shows the auditor's chief investigator seems to believe district employees received incentives to change grades.

In the email from Jan. 25, the auditor's chief investigator asks District Internal Auditor Carolyn Smith, "Do you have anything on who received bonuses for grade changes?"

A source in law enforcement familiar with the investigation told 10 Investigates that the possibility of bonuses is one of the key aspects of the state auditor's investigation.

If there's a "nexus" between bonuses and grade changes, the issue would become criminal, the source said.

Columbus City Schools issued the following statement late Thursday morning:

"Columbus City Schools can confirm that search warrants have been served on several CCS schools asking for student records. The District and our schools are fully cooperating with authorities seeking these records. Since the outset of the attendance investigation Columbus City Schools has fully cooperated with both internal and external investigating authorities.  It was the District's Superintendent that asked the Auditor of State to conduct an investigation in August, 2011.  The Auditor declined that request at the time and the District's Internal Auditor undertook an internal inquiry.  In June, 2012, the Superintendent renewed the request that the Auditor commence an investigation and the Auditor then agreed to do so.  During the ten months since the Auditor of State began conducting its investigation, the District has made hundreds, if not thousands, of student records of the same type sought by these search warrants available to the Auditor of State. The District has cooperated fully with the investigation since it began, and the District will continue to do so."

The state auditor's office declined to comment on the statement, but a source close to the investigation disagreed with that assessment and said legal maneuvering has made obtaining student files difficult.

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