17-year-old Jacob Bigham became a victim of the classic “shoot the messenger” response to whistleblowers. The Troy High School junior from Orange County, California, tapped into the school’s database after he overheard a computer technician giving the password to a school administrator. For that he was suspended five days and barred from becoming student body vice president.
The Orange County Register has been tracking the story since July. The incident began April 23rd when Bigham came forward with what he had found on the database: The school’s Associated Student Body Advisor, Jenny Redmond, had altered election results to block Ryan Daliwal from becoming the next year’s president and Bigham from becoming vice president.
When Bigham uncovered the election irregularity, he met with Assistant Principal Shane York and told him the whole story. He was suspended the next day.
The implications of what I did vs. what she did are not on par with each other. I feel changing the results of an election has far more gravity than finding out by whatever means that someone did that.
Students were incensed that a supposedly democratic process had been rigged. Although the school reserves the right to “administrative review” of election results, students saw the overturning of their choices as interference.
After the election altering was made public, principal Margaret Buchan reinstated the students’ actual choices. While acknowledging Redmond had acted incorrectly, Buchan told the Orange County Register:
Ms. Redmond is not evil and awful – she was a very dedicated, hard-working individual prior to this incident, and through it all, she’s remained a kind, caring and hard-working teacher.
In the glare of public scrutiny after the Orange County Register’s July article, school district officials re-opened an investigation of the controversy. According to the August 20 Register:
The district concluded Monday that some Troy staffers had been under the mistaken belief that Troy’s student-government constitution granted administrators the unilateral authority to alter the results of student voting.
Consequently, the district’s code of ethics for the teaching profession was violated, as was the district’s moral and civic values code, the district said.
Bigham and Daliwal will both be student body officers this school year. Redmond will still be in the classroom.
Although Redmond sounds like a fine teacher and a good person, she crossed an ethical line in overturning the student election. Bigham’s raid on the school’s database and the subsequent furor has taught students a civics lesson they will likely remember long after they have forgotten classroom lectures.
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