COMMENTARY 762.5: Cheating — We Don’t Want to Ruin Their Lives

A few years ago, 14 students at an affluent public high school were involved in a school break-in. They weren’t vandals and weren’t trying to steal anything. Their goal was to alter the computer records of their academic transcripts so they’d have a better chance of getting into premier colleges.

Some people were horrified, others amused, and still others treated the matter as a minor youthful indiscretion. The superintendent fell into the last category. “It’s a one-time infraction of the rules,” he declared, imposing a five-day suspension.

Corrected transcripts were sent to the colleges involved, but the schools weren’t told about the burglary or falsification of records. The reason? “The students were under a lot of pressure and made a mistake,” the superintendent said. “But we don’t want to ruin their lives. They learned their lesson.”

They learned a lesson all right. They learned that there’s little downside to doing whatever it takes to get what you want, even committing a felony. They learned that even if you get caught, you probably won’t suffer serious consequences.

Come on! Suspending high school seniors for a week is a vacation, not a punishment.

This sort of excessive leniency sends a terrible message to kids about right and wrong. The superintendent then trivialized the act by calling it a “mistake.”

A mathematical error is a mistake. Forgetting someone’s birthday is a mistake. Getting into a bad relationship is a mistake.

But breaking into a locked office to alter documents isn’t a mistake. It’s a premeditated act of dishonesty and should be treated as such. If that means the students may suffer long-term impact, so be it. That’s what justice requires and responsibility is about.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Some disturbing data on rampant cheating in schools and the ethics of high school kids

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Comments 5

  1. Thank you Michael! No S$%# people! It is a criminal act and they should of been charged and schools notified of why they were sent the corrected transcript. If after that the school still wanted them great there is the students involved second chance. Just think you do not want to ruin them, but their crimianl act just prevented another student who not only did the right thing but actually earned their grades.

  2. I have said for a long time that the demise of America started when T ball was introduced. I say that because that the underlying premise of T ball is that there are no winners or losers and everyone is equal. There are no winners and losers and we don’t want to scar you and ruin the potential that you have to be successful just because you were not held to a standard to do your best.

    You are no longer required to do your best because your best isn’t necessary in today’s society.

    This goes right along with these 14 criminals who broke into the “school” and are only suffering the minor embarrassment of getting caught. They learned that life required them to be better than they were and so to make up for their short comings they cheated. Then, the officials, who should have reinforced the consequences of the criminal action, did exactly what they taught in a T ball game. There are no winners and losers and we don’t want to scar you and ruin the potential that you have to be successful just because you were not held to a standard to do your best.

    I personally think that we should teach our children that there are winners and losers and if you constantly strive to do your best, even if you come up short, you still win. Self respect shouldn’t be a hard pill to swallow. Not every child can get into Harvard, Yale, USC or Stanford. But you can try. If you come up short at least you know you did your best and others will accept you. These “thugs” should be punished much more severely than they were. I wonder where they are going to school.

    1. It would be interesting to see how those 14 students are doing today. They got a second chance, most of us aren’t so lucky! Have they made a difference?

    2. although I agree with your T-Ball premise, one good rule in T-Ball is the 7 run rule per inning…losing is one thing. Getting slaughtered at that age is unnecessary humiliation for kids who may have the desire but not the skill set to perform at a competitive level yet.

  3. Why should the school treat these criminals any differently from the way their “premier” colleges treat their athletes who commit crimes? The message begins early: there’s little or no accountability if you’re making the school money. Those schools make money on their students’ academic achievements, just as colleges make money on athletics. We’ve done this to ourselves by not quashing this behavior in its infancy.

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