High School Cheating: Flunking Responsibility?

July 14th, 2009 by Kathy McManus

Should a high school punish students who didn’t cheat, but knew others did?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

A cheating scandal involving the graduating class of an Ohio high school has many people arguing over who really flunked Responsibility 101.

According to school officials at Centerburg High, a senior hacked into teachers’ computers and shared stolen tests with perhaps half of the other 90+ seniors. Authorities said that even students who didn’t use the test had “cheated” because they knew of the scam, but failed to report it.

When the Centerburg School Board learned of the situation just days before graduation, it abruptly cancelled the ceremony for the entire senior class. It was impossible “to separate the wheat from the chaff,” declared the school superintendent, so collective punishment was necessary.

“I am alarmed that our kids can think that in society it’s OK to cheat, it’s a big prank, it’s OK to turn away and not be a whistle-blower, not come forth,” the superintendent said, adding that seniors would receive their diplomas through the mail.

“We worked 13 years to get to this point,” said one upset would-be graduate. “This isn’t the way we should be remembering the end of our senior year.”

Opinions on message boards were divided. “I don’t think the kids who knew and didn’t report should be punished,” one person wrote. “They are not the school’s police and it wasn’t their job to act like police.”

Others thought the school wasn’t harsh enough. “Should make them redo the senior year,” one wrote. “They go on to cheat in college, cheat on their spouses, and then in the work force.” And still another insisted, “The school should be named Bernie Madoff High School.”

But the citizens of Centerburg disagreed. Angry parents improvised a graduation ceremony in a local park, and all along Main Street people stopped to cheer the Class of 2009, as 93 seniors in crimson robes filed past, smiling.

Tell us what you think: Was collective punishment appropriate or not? Did students who knew about the scam without taking part have a responsibility to turn in their classmates? What responsibility does the school administration bear?