UPDATE, May 2, 2012: The cheating controversy at Sequoia Union High School District (see stories below) in Redwood City has sparked criticism of the father, Jack Berghouse, an attorney, who filed a lawsuit against the district for dropping his son from the English advanced studies class, and has fueled the debate on the ethics of honors students who feel compelled to cheat to succeed.
The Berghouse case is seen by many commenters as symbolic of an intrusive, goal-oriented parenting style that permits, or tolerates, a child's dishonesty.
A 2010 report card on the student ethics by the Josephson Institute found that 59% of the 40,000 surveyed students admitted to cheating on a test during the last year; 34% admitted to cheating more than twice, and 1 in 3 admitted they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment. These numbers are probably understated because 1 in 4 confessed they lied on at least one or two survey questions...
April 27, 2012: Parents of a sophomore, kicked out of an advanced studies English class due to cheating, have filed a lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court against Sequoia Union High School District and Sequoia High School (Redwood City) claiming that school officials violated the teen's right to due process, reports Bonnie Eslinger for the Palo Alto Daily News.
The sophomore had signed an "Academic Honesty Pledge" at the beginning of the year that declares cheating is grounds for immediate removal; his mother also had signed it. However, another school document states that a student will be removed from the program only after a second plagiarism offense.
In a March 19 letter from Lianides to Berghouse, the superintendent acknowledges that a second document, attached to the honesty pledge, refers to an "old two-strikes policy" and should have been updated. But the signed pledge "clearly states that any incident of cheating or plagiarism will result in the student removal from the class with no exceptions," he wrote.
The boy's father, Jack Berghouse, does not dispute that his son copied his English homework from another student, who also was kicked out. But Berghouse said he believes the punishment is disproportionate to the offense and will jeopardize his son's academic future.
According to the lawsuit, the school's policies regarding punishment for cheating are vague and contradictory, so should not be enforced.
After the copying incident, the student and his mother were told that he would be removed from the English class for cheating and get an "F". In addition, they were told the student would not be allowed into the International Baccalaureate (IB) English classes when he became an upperclassman, that the offense would be noted in the program's record, and that he would be denied the IB diploma.
The next day, Sequoia Principal Hansen informed the family that the punishment had been reduced due to a "loophole," and that the student would be allowed to participate in the IB program with no mention of the cheating on his record. But he would still be left out of the sophomore English class.
The family rejected the offer.
Several school officials, including Lianides, told the family they didn't have the right to appeal and denied their request for a school board review of the dispute.
A preliminary injunction motion to temporarily halt the punishment will be heard on May 17, Berghouse said.
Written for California's Children by Elizabeth J Carlyle.