Ryan Davidson & Nala Turner
Call Ed: “To thine own self be true”
For Call Ed this issue, TKC decided to review KHS’s cheating policy. Inspired by recent events, 86 percent of our staff (81/94) voted KHS should enforce a stricter disciplinary policy regarding cheating and plagiarism in the classroom.
September 29, 2016
As journalists, we love to write. We love to create. We love to paint the world how it really is: the good, the bad and the ugly. We’re here to watch students climb the highest mountains and help catch them when they fall into the deepest holes. We’ve shared remarkable stories of redemption, transition and hope. And when we write, we cannot help ourselves from forging deep emotional connections to our work and to the people around us. On Call, writing is our medium to be ourselves and make a difference in our school, community and the world around us. We write with our minds and hearts; our stories come from the soul.
And due to our love of writing, TKC feels devastated.
Because multiple students turned in plagiarized summer work on the first day of their AP Language and Composition class.
Because one of the plagiarizers broke onto her classmate’s Google account, copied her essay, changed the font and turned it into the teacher as her own.
Because every student in the class dealt with the aftermath.
Because students are angry.
Because, although the school assembled the AP Lang students during homeroom to discuss honor, integrity and respect, they didn’t stress the severity of cheating enough.
Because the consequences of cheating aren’t better publicized.
Because, in accordance with the KHS Student Handbook, the worst punishment a plagiarizer can receive is a zero on the assignment and a phone call home.
Because at KHS, plagiarism is only a level one offense alongside public displays of affection and forgetting an ID.
Because 71 percent of students (155/217) admit they’re guilty of plagiarizing.
And yet, in a sense, we feel bad for the plagiarizers. Increased academic pressure and competition leaves students vulnerable to irrational thinking and desperate measures. As one AP Language student said, students are more afraid of failing than getting caught cheating. And until academic competition is addressed, students will always be tempted to take pictures of tests or steal another student’s work in order to get an “A.”
Understandably, students make mistakes. None of the plagiarizers are inherently bad people and they shouldn’t be seen as such. But we have to stand up for the victims, not rise to the aid of the offenders. By stealing their work, the plagiarizer is essentially taking a small piece of the writer; their thoughts, creativity and individuality are sewn through the stolen sentences.
Moving forward, the administration needs to reassess the rules in the student handbook on cheating and plagiarism. They could introduce a new tiered system with increasingly severe punishments for worse offenses. Copying homework, for example, could be punished with a zero, whereas copying a test or plagiarizing could result in zero, detention and removal from the class. The administration plans on revisiting the policy this summer, and it needs drastic changes. If a student can’t handle AP work, they shouldn’t be in an AP level class.
No matter how the severity is increased, the key is to better publicize the policy. Students need to understand cheating policies and consequences. Unless told directly, students don’t know whether it’s okay to work with a partner or use an online translator.
Although TKC respects the administration for utilizing this incident as a learning experience, it is only a small step toward the change KHS needs. Enforcing standards of honesty, integrity and respect are important, but consequences for a student’s poor actions are critical. Students need to fear cheating more than they fear failure. It is OK to make mistakes and fail, but it is never OK to steal another student’s work and devalue it. Like TKC, AP Language students and teachers are upset, and they have the right to be. If another publication hacked onto our servers and stole our stories, art and photographs, we’d want them to receive a little more than a zero and a phone call home too.
art by Clare Huber