Distance Learning and Academic Misconduct

Over the past couple of years, parents, teachers, and students alike have been forced to learn new pathways for education—especially in times when distance learning was the only option. Many private and public high schools across the nation have learned to work within a completely remote format, while some have eventually adopted a hybrid system blending in-person and distance learning. In the years to come, distance learning will likely remain part of the fabric of public and private school education in some capacity for some time to come.

Thankfully, the Internet has made it possible for many students to keep attending school online when they couldn't do so in person. But unfortunately, this convenience has also created huge complications for some students and their parents when—to their surprise and dismay) they have found themselves accused of cheating and other forms of academic misconduct—while learning at home. Some might not have been aware they were doing anything against school policy; others have simply been falsely accused.

Even when learning remotely, an accusation of misconduct can cause serious repercussions for students when they try to get into college, or even when they apply for work. If you are a distance-learning student who has been accused of academic misconduct—or if your child has been accused—it's critical to act now to prevent damage. Hiring an attorney-advisor may be the best strategy for saving your reputation and academic future. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many high school students who are facing disciplinary action from their schools, including for alleged offenses committed remotely.

How Remote Students Get Accused of Misconduct

High schools are very aware that students frequently use the Internet to cheat on assignments and exams, and in their view, remote learning makes it even easier to cheat. To prevent this from happening, they often utilize tools like plagiarism checkers, online proctor platforms that use AI to detect signs of cheating in real-time, and so on. The problem is that these systems aren't foolproof, and they sometimes flag students for misconduct when they are doing nothing wrong. For example:

  • You might be conducting legitimate research using an online resource, but if the site has been flagged by the school, you could be flagged for going to that site.
  • When taking a test online, you might look away from the computer to think about your answer—but when you look away from the screen too often or in the same direction, the AI might flag you for possibly looking at the answers offline or on another device.
  • If your computer automatically “pings” a known resource site like Canvas, it might be detected by the school's platform, and the authorities might assume you were looking up the answers illegally.

The challenge here is that too many schools place too much trust in their technology without really understanding how it works. Thus, if you get accused of misconduct, it can be difficult to defend yourself because the school may see the computer data as irrefutable evidence against you.

Common Types of Remote Learning Academic Misconduct

High schools may invoke the same disciplinary actions against distance-learning students that they invoke against in-person students. Some of the most common infractions include:

Plagiarism

One of the most common forms of academic misconduct, plagiarism is the use of someone else's words or ideas as one's own. This offense can be as brazen as copy/pasting text from someone else's paper or a study site, using a source as a reference for your paper but failing to give proper credit, or even accidentally “plagiarizing” by turning in work that appears to be too “similar” to someone else's work. (This is where plagiarism checkers often flag people unfairly.)

Cheating

Many forms of academic misconduct are commonly called “cheating,” but the technical term simply means the student broke the established rules of learning. Examples of cheating remotely might include using a banned study site (e.g., Slader or Chegg), sharing answers with another student via chat or text, or looking up answers to test questions on a separate device while taking a test online.

Violating Test Conditions

Taking tests remotely can be tricky—at least, as far as the high school is concerned. When the school can't control the testing environment, they may have certain requirements for how tests at home must be taken. If they suspect you have violated these requirements, they may accuse you of misconduct.

Unauthorized Assistance, Collaboration, or Sharing of Materials

Working remotely makes it easy for students to collaborate on projects and to share information through online resources. You might be allowed to collaborate on certain assignments but not on others. If the school suspects you are collaborating and sharing answers with other students against the rules, you could face disciplinary action.

What Happens if You Are Disciplined by the School?

Every high school has its own disciplinary process, but the penalties for academic misconduct are typically severe, and the consequences far-reaching. If the school determines you cheated or committed some other type of academic misconduct, consequences could include:

  • Failing the assignment, the test, or the entire course.
  • Being required to repeat a course, or perhaps an entire year.
  • Losing eligibility to participate in certain societies or honors programs.
  • Being disqualified from scholarships and grants.
  • Being suspended or expelled from school.
  • Having your academic record permanently tarnished by a disciplinary notation.
  • Being denied admission to many colleges and universities.

Why Hire an Attorney-Advisor

If you (or your student) are being investigated for academic misconduct, or if the school intends to penalize you, you probably will not be permitted to have an attorney in an official capacity since it's not a legal matter. However, you do have the right to hire an attorney to act in an advisory role, and this extra help can go a long way toward obtaining a favorable outcome. An experienced attorney-advisor will understand the disciplinary process of the school and be able to help you find the best path toward defending yourself. The involvement of an attorney-advisor can also help ensure the school stays consistent with its own policies, so you are given a fair opportunity to exonerate yourself. In many cases, hiring an attorney-advisor can mean the difference between saving a student's academic career and suffering long-term consequences.

Don't let a simple mistake, a lapse in judgment, or an unfair accusation from the school put your career in jeopardy. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has nationwide experience in helping high school students deal with school disciplinary actions, including fighting accusations of academic misconduct through remote learning. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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