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Archive for Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Plagiarism fallout

April 10, 2002

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A plagiarism incident in the nearby Piper school district will have far-reaching effects.

What does it say about values, standards and honesty when members of a school board and the school superintendent direct a teacher in their district to change the grades of students she believes to have cheated?

Much has been said about the recent situation in nearby Piper, where a high school teacher, Christine Pelton, resigned from her teaching post rather than change the failing grades she had given 28 students on a biology project. Pelton suspected plagiarism after discovering many papers submitted in the class project contained identical material.

This took place last December, and, just last week, school board members and the superintendent spoke publicly about the matter and reaffirmed their decision to make the science teacher change the grades. What signal does this send to teachers in the Piper school system, and what does it say to students and their parents about honesty and cheating?

One school board member said his decision in December to demand that the teacher change the grades was based on his belief the students should have had a chance to defend themselves and have an appeals process to challenge the teacher's action. He said he wanted to "salvage the class," whatever that means.

The fallout from the embarrassing situation is that six of the seven school board members continue to stand by their action; each board member was fined $250 for violating the state's open meetings law, and the entire board will pay $1,238 in court costs.

However, the biggest "cost" is the negative, nationwide fallout from this situation. What is someone in another state going to think about a school system that allows cheating, in fact, pushes a teacher who refuses to change her failing grades to resign? What are other Piper teachers going to think about their demands and standards for honesty in the classroom? What are colleges and university officials going to think about the integrity of the grades on Piper High School transcripts? What kind of teachers will the school system attract when it appears there is questionable support for teachers by the superintendent and school board members?

This is another black eye for Kansas education.

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