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New Policy Points in Wrong Direction

Lynnea Zhang, '19, Editor

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As you may know, Strath Haven adopted a new academic integrity policy over the summer. From this year on, teachers and administrators will be handling any considered cheating acts in a uniform manner. While when most students hear the word “cheating” they think of peeking at a peers test, using a cheat sheet, or stealing a test, this policy includes acts such as copying homework and collaborating on an independent assignment as cheating. Failing to have academic integrity has been an occurrence for as long as testing has. It is inevitable that when scoring an
assignment and measuring academic performance, there are going to be people that find a loophole in order to score higher than they would have without using any outside resources. While I believe that this is a reprehensible practice that should be discouraged in all forms, I do not believe Strath Haven’s new academic integrity policy particularly does this in the best way possible. According to Dr. Donald McCabe and the International Center for Academic Integrity, after surveying over 70,000 high school students at over 24 high schools in the United States, “64 percent of students admitted to cheating on a test, 58 percent admitted to plagiarism and 95 percent said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism or copying homework.” These statistics give a little bit of insight into the depth of this academic integrity policy. While attempting to bring down levels of cheating in our high school is honorable and thoughtbased, the mere number of people that can be assumed to participate in these dishonest acts is so vast that it is unrealistic to hope such a policy could stop it altogether. Before a hard set policy was made, teachers could, for the most part, deal with cheating as they personally saw fit. This means that to one teacher, seeing a student copy someone’s homework in the hallway before class is nothing to worry about, while another teacher could react to the same thing by reporting it and seeking consequences for the student. In fact, one teacher I spoke to even admitted to not reporting one of their students blatantly cheating on a quiz because they knew that student was in National Honor’s Society and did not want to get them kicked out. Clearly, this poses a problem. It is not fair to treat students differently based on how well the teacher knows or cares about them, so for this reason a uniform policy makes sense.

Although, one has to wonder, if teachers were acting as they did such as in the previously mentioned situation, will they follow this policy? What is going to stop them from not reporting a witnessed “cheating situation” just to save a student they like from possibly permanent repercussions? This is not the only problem presented in the new policy. When looking at the point system, one will see that cheating on homework constitutes a 2-point offense, cheating on a test is 3 points, and stealing a test is 6 points. If a student acquires these points, they last for all of their high school career, and once 6 points have been acquired, the student must put it on their applications to college. This means
that if a student gets caught copying homework once freshman year, once junior year, and once senior year, they are required to put it on their permanent record. I decided to ask some senior peers of mine if they thought this policy was not only fair but a good way to handle cheating at Strath Haven, seeing as they have been at the school the longest. Ellie Miller expressed that “The point system is much too broad, and puts copying mere graded-for-completion work on par with cheating on an independent quiz. I don’t think that cheating three times on homework that is only checked for completion in the entirety of high school should be gives the same value as stealing a final exam. This new policy will indeed scare students into not being explicit in their cheating, but it will not deter them from cheating in their high school career.” This opinion seemed to be shared by most students. The next student I talked to, Patrick Gaughan, said that he believes “This policy is overkill, and it should not be planned out this specifically.” Referring back to the habit of different teachers handling cheating in different ways, Patrick and a few other students I spoke to believed this is the way it should be, as different teachers should be able to make their own judgement calls without being restricted by a policy that generalizes all occurrences to some categorical explanation.
Another student I spoke to, Emma Golato, pointed out one of the biggest defects I found in the policy. She said, “I don’t think it’s fair. It should renew every year because you shouldn’t have to pay for mistakes from freshman year in your senior year.” I have to agree with this, as the difference in maturity between a freshman and senior is remarkable. Freshman are not necessarily thinking about the consequences of their actions affecting their college application process, so to make this a possibility is, in my opinion, extreme.

While I do not disagree or agree with all aspects of the academic integrity policy, I admire the school for taking a stand and hoping to make a dent in such a widespread practice. Whether you agree or disagree with the policy, I encourage you to express those opinions, as they very well may have an impact on edits of the policy for upcoming years at Strath Haven.

The student newspaper of Strath Haven High School. The Panther Press is first and foremost a reflection of the opinions and interests of the student body. For this reason, we do not publish any anonymous or teacher-written submissions, and we do not discriminate against any ideology or political opinion. While we are bound by school policy (and funding), we will not render any article neutral, although individual points may be edited for obscene or inflammatory content. Finally, the articles published in the Panther Press do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or advisors.
New Policy Points in Wrong Direction