BROOKSVILLE — In a short, prepared speech earlier this week, Hernando County School Board member John Sweeney denied publicly for the first time any improprieties in the changing of his son's English grades.
Speaking to a crowd at Tuesday's regular School Board meeting, Sweeney said he did not use his office to obtain "a special advantage."
"Reports or claims to the contrary are false and malicious," he said.
He said he and his attorney will challenge what he described as "errors in my son's grades and educational records." He said that he, like any parent, has a right to correct these errors.
He also said, "Whoever leaked the information about my son's grades violated the law."
He added later: "I will find the person or persons responsible and take appropriate legal action."
According to documents obtained by the Times, Kenny Sweeney, a senior at Springstead High School, was given an unusual opportunity in October to take a series of four tests at home to replace poor grades from his sophomore English course. He earned C's on the exams, though the grades were entered into school records as B's.
In December, John Sweeney hand-delivered a grade-change form for Kenny's English class to Springstead principal Susan Duval, which changed his first-semester grade from 27 percent to 80 percent and his second-semester grade from 67 percent to 81 percent.
In January, Springstead officials received another grade-change form. This one changed the class in question from English 2 to English 2 Honors, giving the course greater weight and improving Kenny's high school grade point average.
The form was hand-delivered to Duval by John Sweeney.
However, the tests Kenny took were not for an honors-level class, according to a "rigor analysis" performed by district staffers.
Following Sweeney's speech at Tuesday's meeting, a Hernando resident addressed the Board during the portion of the meeting open to citizen comment. The resident challenged Sweeney to produce the proctor who supervised Kenny's tests, arguing that disclosing that information would alleviate many of the problems.
Sweeney interrupted the resident saying, "Excuse me, (Board attorney) Mr. (Dennis) Alfonso, this is something that we ... it's inappropriate to discuss."
The resident responded: "You brought it up in a statement."
Sweeney said, "And my statement was that it is inappropriate to discuss."
He later said that he had an answer regarding the proctor. Sweeney told the man they could have a conversation at the end of the meeting.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.