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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2001

Student paper breaks forgery story

April 6, 2001

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— High school administrators encouraged dozens of students to forge their parents' signatures on forms that help the school get federal aid.

Student reporters at the West Springfield High School newspaper The Oracle broke the story Wednesday.

"I don't think there will be any criminal charges," police spokeswoman Julie Hersey said Thursday. "We just want to make sure that they know that we know what happened so it won't happen again."

On March 22, school officials gathered 47 students in the cafeteria and asked them to forge their parents' signatures on a county form that the school system uses to seek federal funding. Ten to 20 students did so. Several students told The Oracle that school security staff and Bill Renner, a coach at the school, pressured them to forge the signatures.

The school's honor code states that forging a parent's signature is punishable by at least a one-day suspension.

The forms are used to determine if a student lives on federal property such as an Army base. The federal government reimburses school systems for the education of those children since their parents do not pay county property taxes.

Renner defended his actions to the paper, saying the students were supposed to turn in the forms three months ago.

"They didn't do it and that's open defiance and disobedience. They need to have a better attitude," he said. "They don't have any reason to speak their voice because they were in the wrong."

Principal David Smit saw the article before it was printed and had the option to kill it but chose not to. "I was not entirely comfortable with the slant of the article," Smith told the Post. "But I would have been even less comfortable censoring it."

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