Cops crack bagrut leak case

Suspects named include Education Ministry exam writer, teacher.

By ABE SELIG
May 30, 2010 19:15
3 minute read.
Students at Hebrew University.

StudentsAtHebrewU311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A week after it was revealed that answers to the national math bagrut (matriculation exam) had been leaked to students prior to the exam, the Israel Police Fraud and Investigations unit on Sunday released for publication details of the affair, including the identities of two main suspects in the case – an Education Ministry employee and a prep-school teacher – both of whom were released from police custody on Sunday afternoon under restrictive conditions.

According to investigators, Rachel Kedem, a member of the Education Ministry committee in charge of formulating the mathematics bagrut, supplied Haifa-area teacher Erez Cohen with a number of answer sheets for the test, which he then passed on to one of his pupils, Kyril Rohovitch.

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Both Kedem and Cohen, who were released on Sunday, are now awaiting indictments for their roles in the leak, and are expected to be charged in the coming days.

Cohen, who works as teacher at a preparatory academy at Haifa's Technion University and also as a private tutor for the math bagrut exam, was seen running out of the Israel Police Moriah compound in Jerusalem's Talpiyot neighborhood on Sunday afternoon, wearing a snow hat and a green hoodie, in an apparent attempt to give the waiting crowd of reporters the slip.

Dashing into a nearby home improvement center, Cohen then hid from photographers in the store's bathroom before finally emerging with his face covered. Both he and Kedem, who exited the building shortly thereafter, refused to speak with reporters.

Nonetheless, police allege that after Kedem gave the answer sheets to Cohen and he passed them on to Rohovitch, the latter, together with his brother, then copied and sold the materials, which police believe may have found their way into the hands of "hundreds" of additional pupils.

Investigators also believe that from the Rohovitch brothers, the answer sheets spread virally, from one friend to another, by hand and over the Internet, in an intricate and secretive process that saw duplicate answer sheets being sold for hundreds of shekels each.

While investigators said that they did not believe Kedem or Cohen had been spurred by financial motives, they did say that once the materials found their way into the pupils' hands, prices for the answer sheet peaked somewhere around NIS 1,500 and that after questioning "dozens" of suspects in the case, they were now looking into whether or not answers for the winter 2010 math bagrut had been similarly leaked.

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Revelations of the leak initially sowed panic in the halls of the Education Ministry last Sunday, the night before the exam had been scheduled to take place.

After deliberating over the situation late into the night, the ministry finally decided to postpone the exam for one day and filed a formal complaint with police, which led to the days-long investigation over the source of the leak.

The following day, ministry officials announced that a replacement test would be administered, and that version of the exam, which pupils took last Tuesday, was made available to teachers via the Internet.

However, heavy web traffic saw the ministry site crash on Tuesday morning as teachers scrambled to download the exam. Additionally, teachers and pupils alike have alleged that the updated version of the test was much more difficult than they had anticipated and were concerned that the entire situation had negatively affected pupils' scores on the exam.

Nevertheless, Education Ministry officials have dismissed those concerns over recent days, with both the ministry's Director General, Dr. Shimshon Shoshani, and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, telling reporters that the leak and its aftermath "presented the ministry with a near-impossible challenge, which was met with success."


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