Did she cheat or not? What do you think?

A Washington high school student who was accused of cheating on a test is now suing her school district, according to the Huffington Post (“Student Sues Over Cheating Charge That Led To An ‘F’”, October 20, 2014). The accusation resulted in the student receiving a failing grade on the exam. The student, a senior, wants the court to order the district to change her failing grade and to expunge the charge of cheating from her school record.

The allegations of cheating came about when the student raised her hand to ask a question during a chemistry test. When the teacher came to the student’s desk, he noticed hand-written notes inside a pencil pouch. When the teacher took out the notes, he saw that among the notes were test preparations for the chemistry exam that the student was currently taking.

The student, who is a “model student” according to her lawyer and parents, maintains that she did not cheat. The teacher and the school principal, however, affirm that possessing the pencil pouch with notes inside while taking the exam is enough evidence to uphold allegations of cheating.

The student challenged the teacher’s decision by meeting with the principal. When she did not get her failing grade overturned, she took the case to the school board. The school board upheld the decision of the principal and the teacher. She has now sought relief in the courts.

The case has sparked debates online as to what constitutes sufficient evidence for cheating, as well as the proper protocol for testing instructions. For instance, many argue that there is no conclusive evidence that the student was cheating at all. If the school board has no proof that the student was cheating, they say, they are in no position to punish the student for cheating. On the other hand, others argue that every student should know that if you have your notes somewhere on your desk, you are setting yourself up to be accused of cheating.

Another aspect of this story is that the student’s reputation has been tarnished. Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” There are many lessons to be learned from this student’s unfortunate experience.

What do you think? Has the school board overstepped its authority? Has the student over-reacted? Should the courts be able to overrule decisions of educators concerning student grades? Should educators be required to offer make up exams for students when cheating was alleged but not proven?

Christie Zervos

Director of Operations, Caveon Test Security

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