It's been a shaky few years for Rhode Island's high schools – and it's not just because of its low educational rankings and struggling graduation rate. In late 2019, East Greenwich High made national news when a student paid for the answers to an Advanced Placement test and distributed them to 20-30 of his peers. And with the shift to distance learning, the ACLU is raising concerns about how 24 districts in the state allow school officials to access laptop microphones and cameras at any time.
While cautionary measures are necessary to curb widespread cheating, students face undue pressure to succeed – and they take rash actions to improve test scores. If your teen faces allegations of academic misconduct, don't wait until it's too late to fight back. Overly-harsh penalties can harm your child's reputation, delay graduation, and land their name on college “cheater” lists.
Defining Academic Misconduct
Any action that a student uses to gain an unfair academic advantage over their peers is a form of academic misconduct. Whether it is cheating on a test, preventing others from succeeding, or influencing others to commit unethical acts, these actions go against school policies and harm others.
Some examples of academic misconduct include:
- Cheating on a test or quiz
- Using electronic devices to cheat
- Tampering with answers on a test after grading and resubmitting it for a grade correction
- Using the internet or apps to search for answers without permission from the teacher
- Paying someone to write essays or complete homework
- Forging documents, certificates, or information
- Changing the grades on a test or report card
- Collaborating with a group of students to create a cheating ring
- Plagiarism and intentional copyright violations
- Disrupting the work/concentration of other students
- Copying test questions to give to other students or uploading them to websites
While some of the above examples are minor violations, some schools have multiple offenders and want to crack down on cheating. As a result, their administrations enforce disproportionately severe penalties to discourage others from engaging in similar activities.
How Penalties Affect Students
Penalties for committing academic misconduct range from a figurative slap on the wrist to the undoing of years of hard work with expulsion. Factors that affect an administration's approach include the severity of the action, the student's character, and whether this was a first-time offense.
Since every school adopts a different approach, review your teen's school policy or code of conduct to understand their process. The penalties may only extend to a reduced grade or become impediments to your child's progress.
Moreover, some colleges ask for character references from school administrators. If the infarction ends up on your teen's permanent record, it affects their admission chances at many universities.
If the student is a first-time offender or the infarction is minor, the repercussions aren't egregious. Most school administrations do not want to punish the teen to the point where they do more harm than good. However, even first-time offenders may receive a harsh penalty if the violation is severe. For minor offenses, administrators may:
- Deduct grades
- Give the student a zero on the test or quiz
- Refuse a make-up exam
- Call a meeting with parents
- Require the student to come to school on weekends
- Assign extra work
For significant offenses and multiple violations, schools act with a heavy hand to protect their name and reputation. Some repercussions include:
- Failing the class
- Repeating a grade
- Revoking school privileges
- Removal from honorary societies
- Re-taking board or Advanced Placement exams
- Having their name on a list of banned students that the College Board shares with academic institutions
- Revoking grants or scholarships
Don't let your teen's mistake become a threat to your child's academic and professional future. With the right strategy and a competent advisor's advice, you can reach a favorable case resolution. Your teen's years of hard work and diligence don't have to go to waste – swift action and a robust defense strategy are necessary for results.
What You Can Do
Once your teen's high school contacts you about academic misconduct allegations, you must gather information to refute the claims or minimize their impact.
Some steps you can take to start the defense process include:
- Reviewing the school's academic policy or code of conduct to determine if admins are following the process
- Not discussing the specifics of the case with other parents or outsiders
- Ensuring that your teen does not post about the case on social media or discuss it with peers
- Gathering evidence and documentation to refute allegations
- Talking to witnesses who can corroborate claims made by your teen
- Hiring a student defense advisor and refraining from responding to any charges without the advisor's guidance
While some parents opt to challenge allegations alone, a student defense advisor's guidance improves your teen's chances of success. Even if your teen's high school does not allow counsel in a hearing, you can still use their advice to help uncover information that turns the tide in your teen's case.
Teenagers will do things that surprise and upset their parents – but that is a part of their growth process. The allegations are a teaching moment that also helps them understand the repercussions of their actions. However, it's unfair to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of students.
With the pandemic's stresses, distance learning, and an educational system that needs work, students are cracking under pressure. To ensure that they stay ahead, some are cheating instead of understanding and retaining information from their teachers.
Contact the Lento Law Firm
While there is a process that schools must follow, not all students receive the same treatment. Attorney Joseph D. Lento identifies when schools are taking an unfair route and boosts your teen's confidence before facing an investigation or hearing panel.
Drawing from his unparalleled experience with thousands of academic misconduct cases across the nation, advisor Lento works aggressively to helps you fight allegations that can ruin your teen's future.
An academic misconduct violation doesn't have to have negative short or long-term impact. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your teen's academic misconduct violations discreetly and in confidence.
Rhode Island high schools where Joseph D. Lento can help as your child's student's academic misconduct advisor during investigations, hearings and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following school districts:
- Barrington School District
- Bristol Warren Regional School District
- Burrillville School District
- Central Falls School District
- Chariho Regional School District
- Coventry School District
- Cranston Public Schools
- Cumberland School District
- East Greenwich School District
- East Providence School District
- Exeter-West Greenwich Regional School District
- Foster Elementary School District
- Foster-Glocester Regional School District
- Glocester School District
- Jamestown School District
- Johnston School District
- Lincoln School District
- Little Compton School District
- Middletown School District
- Narragansett School District
- New Shoreham School District
- Newport School District
- North Kingstown School District
- North Providence School District
- North Smithfield School District
- Pawtucket School District
- Portsmouth School District
- Providence Public Schools
- Scituate School District
- Smithfield School District
- South Kingstown School District
- Tiverton School District
- Warwick Public Schools
- West Warwick School District
- Westerly School District
- Woonsocket School District
It is critical to make certain academic misconduct charges at your child's Rhode Island high school are handled properly and that the accused student's interests and rights are protected from as early as possible during the investigative and disciplinary process. One reason, among many, is because even at high schools where a finding of responsibility for academic misconduct is made at a hearing, the investigation will set the stage for what the hearing panel is provided prior to a hearing (and what the hearing panel will in large part rely on at a hearing), and at high schools where the finding of responsibility is made solely through the investigative process, what takes place during the investigation itself will determine whether the accused student is found responsible or not responsible for academic misconduct.
Unfortunately, some parents make the mistake of not taking the necessary precautions as soon as possible when their child is accused of academic misconduct. Some people will mistakenly believe that if they "just explain what happened," their school will be fair and impartial and will arrive at the truth. In a perfect world this may be the case, but in a perfect world, being called to answer for alleged academic misconduct would not exist.
Fighting passionately for the future of his clients at schools throughout the nation for many years, Joseph D. Lento knows how important it is to mount the strongest defense because he understands that an accused high school student's academic future is on the line. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as an academic misconduct advisor to high school students facing investigations and disciplinary cases in Rhode Island and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National High School Academic Misconduct Defense Attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.