Parents, students stunned over SAT scandal

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Disappointment and disbelief were the most common reactions of students and parents interviewed Tuesday at Nassau schools touched by the SAT and ACT test-cheating scandal.

"At the end of the day, any SAT test or any SAT grade will be taken with a grain of salt because of these kids," said Shon Shalit, 16, a junior at Great Neck North High School, where seven former students were implicated Tuesday in a second round of arrests.

The Great Neck North High alumni identified Tuesday by District Attorney Kathleen Rice followed the arrests in September of seven current and former students from the school, who were accused of being part of an SAT cheating ring. In both roundups, authorities said some students paid others to take the college admissions tests for them.

One Great Neck North parent outside the high school who did not want to give her name said that criminal charges were excessive. "These are kids who made a mistake," she said.

At a nearby Dunkin' Donuts, several students among a group of about a dozen said they were aware of the latest arrests but did not know anyone involved. One student said the high school principal had asked them not to talk to the media.

Also charged Tuesday was a graduate from the district's other high school, Great Neck South. The 6,000-student district, where pupils often achieve national academic recognition, is considered one of the best public school systems in the state.

Ben Zander, 16 and a junior at Great Neck South, described the situation as "embarrassing" for the district. Though students at other schools face charges, he said, "it seems we are getting a whole lot of publicity for it."

His mother, Lauren Zander, voiced indignation that any student would resort to cheating. The district's schools are "fabulous," she said, and Great Neck South offers many resources to students.

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Authorities Tuesday also named students from three other schools on the Island's affluent North Shore -- Roslyn High School and two private schools, St. Mary's High School in Manhasset and North Shore Hebrew Academy in Great Neck. School officials in the Great Neck and Roslyn districts and at St. Mary's declined to comment Tuesday. Great Neck referred to a statement issued earlier, saying it is cooperating with the district attorney's office. A statement Monday from the Diocese of Rockville Centre said St. Mary's would cooperate. North Shore Hebrew Academy did not respond to requests for comment.

At Roslyn High School, students discussed the unfolding situation as they sat in a nearby pizza parlor at lunchtime. Authorities said a former Roslyn student had paid someone to take one of the tests.

One current student, Maccabi Schneider, 16, a junior, said he was not surprised.

"A lot of rich people think they can buy anything, and they tried to buy this, too," he said.

With Jo Napolitano

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