Cheater’s parents sue school

Caught copying another student’s homework, a California sophomore was kicked out of honors English. His parents admit he cheated, violating the Academic Honesty Pledge he’d signed at the start of the year. But the cheater’s parents are suing, claiming the teen’s due process rights were violated, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The boy’s father, Jack Berghouse, said the punishment is too severe and could make it harder for his son to get into a top college.

The school offered to let the boy enter the International Baccalaureate program in 11th and 12th grade with others in the honors track and to keep the cheating incident off his transcript. But that wasn’t enough for the parents.

In a Mercury News poll, 84 percent of readers said cheaters shouldn’t get a second chance. Berghouse complains he’s “getting a lot of hate calls” about the lawsuit at his office.

One of my daughter’s high school classmates got away with plagiarizing homework in an honors class, but was rejected by every college that required a teacher’s recommendation letter.  He transferred to an elite college — and was expelled for cheating.

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Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    Isn’t filing a *PUBLIC* lawsuit about your child’s cheating (which you acknowledge in the lawsuit) also going to hurt the child’s chances to “get into a top college”?

  2. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Indeed. And what an awesome use of taxpayer’s education dollars — defending against this lawsuit.

  3. Susie Hirsch Haubenstock says:

    My older daughter also witnessed incredible amounts of cheating around her in high school honors classes, and she lived through many ceremonies where the cheaters were given multiple awards. That’s a kind of education, too.

  4. Cranberry says:

    Once he was caught cheating, he lost the chance to attend an elite college. It was certain to show up in school or teacher recommendations.

    Suing the school means it will turn up on a Google search. Brilliant.

    • Sean Mays says:

      Who cares about GOING to an elite college? He could always work his way up to Dean at some Ivy grad school; Penn at least seems to have a loose background check…

      http://articles.philly.com/2012-04-26/news/31410945_1_doctoral-degree-doctoral-program-inquirer.

      Unaware he hadn’t gotten a degree while he’s several years after he’s still enrolled? Not the best rationalization I’ve heard.

      But yeah, now it’s a public stink; perhaps Timmy’s parents should have quietly enrolled him at a private school where nobody knew him?

      On a serious note, sometimes it seems like it’s only in academia where there’s even a flicker of concern about issues like this.

  5. Apparently, the parents of the cheater seem to have forgotten about Blair Hornstein, who sued in federal court (and won) to become her school’s sole valedictorian based on her disability (I didn’t agree with the ruling), but Ms. Hornstein lost the war when her admission to Harvard was withdrawn over articles she had plagarized during high school.

    The parents do NOT have a winnable case (from what I can see) since they did sign the agreement regarding the penalty for academic dishonesty (which is what copying another student’s homework is).

    While the parents may win the lawsuit, they’ve already lost the war in this contest, since the student will have his name linked with the issue of cheating even before he gets to college.

    We had a situation like this between two high schools locally about the winning of a statewide science competition, the school who didn’t actually win the competition is representing the state, and the school who actually won sits on the sidelines (it would appear that a teachable moment was lost here)…

    Sigh

  6. What if we eliminated the “honors” tag along with the homework? Toss out the pressure to qualify for elite schools, too.

    Sounds like cheating wouldn’t be necessary.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Mark, Um, you do know that some folks enjoy competition, right? They enjoy having high standards set for them and then reaching them while competing against themselves and others? That doing this is itself a learning experience, not just with regards to handling the content, but also the psychological and emotional aspect to competition?

    • Mark Roulo says:

      “Toss out the pressure to qualify for elite schools, too. “

      Since there are lots more people who want to go to these schools than there are slots available, how do you propose that we toss out the pressure to qualify?

      Folks can already opt out of the competition to get in.

      We still have more people competing for the available slots than there are slots, so some of them are going to be unhappy.

      How do we toss out the pressure?

    • Cranberry says:

      You can’t get rid of the competition for slots. If the school limits access to honors courses, the students will go nuts with competitive extracurricular activities. The amount of time spent on homework will drop, and cheating will rise.

  7. What if we eliminated the “honors” tag along with the homework? Toss out the pressure to qualify for elite schools, too.

    That’s great in isolation, but you can’t change just one thing. Or in this case, just two things.

    This system evolved over a long time in response to a whole bunch of circumstances. Off the top of my head, the root causes of the things you want to eliminate are as far ranging as federal employment discrimination law and the failure of high schools to ensure graduates had appropriate skills for the workforce to the traditional social networks of the economic and political elites. If one were to work it through further, they’d probably find that these two things were tied up in a whole host of issues.

    It might be a worthy cause to try and change the world, but it’s also worthy to expect integrity in the world we have. It’s easy to point at circumstances and excuse dishonest behavior as being reasonable. It’s also dangerous. When a society built on trustworthiness and rule following starts to excuse behavior that undermines those, it has consequences.

    • Excellent points, Quincy. I agree that we need to expect integrity. My problem is that I’m not sure we’re teaching it. We throw awful homework assignments at students, and they copy to earn points toward a grade.

      An 8th grader recently told me the homework from another class was nothing but rote memory and was a stupid assignment not worth his time. When I asked him why he was copying, he said, “I need the points.”

      • Quincy says:

        My problem is that I’m not sure we’re teaching it. We throw awful homework assignments at students, and they copy to earn points toward a grade.

        An 8th grader recently told me the homework from another class was nothing but rote memory and was a stupid assignment not worth his time. When I asked him why he was copying, he said, “I need the points.”

        See now, that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion. Too many teachers, unfortunately, conflate content mastery with the ability to complete rafts of easier work. This ignores a student’s willingness to do work of little or no value to him. At that point, it ceases to be about academic ability and becomes about how compliant a student is.

        Students who are compliant and faultlessly honest will just buck up and do the work. Students who aren’t compliant will not do it. But the ones in the middle will find a way to shortcut it, delivering the result the teacher wants without putting in the full tedious effort.

        This cause of cheating, at least, could be addressed by schools and teachers. It would also, if schools were so inclined, open the door to better serving advanced students.

  8. Student cheated. Student got caught. Student had to face the consequences of getting caught cheating.

    I’m sorry, I don’t see the problem with that chain of events? Sometimes I think the reason we’re in such a mess as a culture is that when people do something wrong and get caught, they go all “boo hoo” and someone comes to their rescue.

    I wouldn’t “hate call” someone in his situation but neither do I think the punishment the kid faces is too harsh.