College Board invalidates SAT scores at South River High School after alleged cellphone use during fire evacuation

By Caitlyn Freeman 

As a result of a suspected fire at South River High School, which resulted in alleged student cellphone use during the evacuation process, College Board invalidated test scores for approximately 560 juniors at the school. The fire alarm went off during the school system wide administration of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) on Wednesday, March 27th, which prompted the evacuation.

A letter, which Principal William Myers sent home on Wednesday, explained that at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday morning, the building’s fire alarm went off because there was a suspected fire in the boy’s locker room. The school immediately evacuated and waited for the fire department to arrive. Once there, the fire department determined there was no fire but instead sparks from electrical work that was occurring.

“County fire officials then deemed our building safe to re-enter, and we resumed our normally scheduled activities about 10 minutes later,” the letter read.

Due to the administration of the exam, which was offered to all juniors in the school system and paid for by Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS), freshmen, sophomore, and senior students who attend one of the 12 high schools within the AACPS system were on a three-hour delay schedule. Myers explained that as the incident occurred, the junior students who were testing were evacuating the building as the other students were arriving.

Bob Mosier, Chief Communications Officer for AACPS, explained that during the evacuation, students were observed using cellphones, which goes against the testing policy set by College Board. He added that the school system is required to report any testing interruptions as well as any observations they make during said interruptions, to College Board Officials.

Myers explained that the school instructs students to forego their personal items during a building evacuation and focus on exiting the building.

“We tell them to just evacuate and leave everything there,” Myers said. However, as he explained, some students grabbed their personal belongings, which may have contained a cellphone,  or already had a device on their person during the evacuation.

“Students are students, kids are kids,” Myers said. He also mentioned that trying to keep approximately 560 students quiet during this time was a challenge. He says that he couldn’t confirm that the students didn’t communicate with each other about the exam during the evacuation. He added that some students called their parents during the evacuation.

According to the “SAT and SAT Subject Tests Student Registration Booklet” located on the College Board website, using phones and smartwatches during the exam as well as breaks during the testing period, is prohibited. The booklet also says that students are to refrain from discussing the materials of the test with other people during the exam or breaks.

“I think it’s natural for someone to grab a cellphone,” Mosier said in regards to the alleged cell phone activity during the evacuation.

Mosier says that the school system has been in contact with officials from College Board and they’re planning on re-administering the test to the students at South River. The date, which College Board sets, has yet to be determined, and he added that the school system would pay for the exam.