The pressure to succeed in high school is more intense for students now than ever before. The pressure to get accepted into a good college or university so you can ultimately embark on a successful career—that pressure all begins in high school. And the high schools themselves are also under pressure to uphold high academic standards to gain the public trust. Given all this pressure, it's easy to see how tempting it can be for students to try to gain whatever advantages they can—including resorting to cheating.
The problem is that some students end up cheating without realizing they are breaking the rules. In other cases, schools can be so sensitive to the issue that students can easily be falsely accused of cheating. And because high schools take cheating so seriously, a simple mistake or misunderstanding can have devastating consequences for a student's future academic and professional career. If you are a high school student accused of cheating—or if you're a parent of an accused student—it's critical to understand the school's disciplinary process and to have help developing a defense. As a national expert in student defense, attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped many high school students fight allegations of academic misconduct and protect their futures.
What Constitutes Cheating?
Some people think of “cheating” as a broad term encompassing all types of academic misconduct (including plagiarism, falsification, etc.). From an academic perspective, though, cheating is simply a violation of the rules in completing an assignment or an exam. Teachers put certain policies in place to make sure each student has the same parameters for learning and completing the work. When you change those parameters without the teacher's permission to gain an advantage or get a better grade, that's considered cheating.
Examples of Cheating May Include the Following:
- Copying another student's work or answers. If you look over someone's shoulder to get the answer to a test, or if you copy the answers on someone's homework, it's cheating.
- Dishonestly obtaining answers to a test beforehand.
- Copying the answers to a test and bringing them to the testing site.
- Looking up answers on your phone while taking a test.
- Having someone do your homework for you and turning it in as your own.
- Using resource materials or websites forbidden by the school materials (e.g., Slader or Chegg) to complete an assignment.
- Continuing to write after the instructor calls “time” on an exam.
Consequences for Cheating
High schools take allegations of cheating very seriously, and if the school authorities determine you did so, the consequences can be severe—both immediate and in the long term. Every school has its own policies for discipline, but here are some examples of disciplinary actions for cheating:
- Failing grade for the assignment or class, which may affect your GPA or your ability to advance.
- Requirement to retake the course.
- Requirement to repeat a school year.
- Requirement to go to summer school.
- Restriction from extra-curricular activities (e.g., athletics or clubs).
- Ineligibility for honors programs and societies.
- Ineligibility for certain scholarships, which could help pay for college.
- A permanent mark on your academic record, which could affect your ability to get accepted into certain colleges or universities, or even to get hired at certain companies.
- Suspension or expulsion from the high school.
What Happens When a Student Is Accused of Cheating?
Each high school has its own established procedures for meting out discipline, which is usually laid out in that high school's Student Code of Conduct or Student Handbook. However, most schools follow some version of the following disciplinary process for cheating:
- The student is notified of the accusation (usually by the teacher or administrator who caught the alleged cheating).
- The student's parents are notified that the student is accused of cheating.
- The school investigates the claim (reviewing the teacher's allegations, looking at the evidence, and possibly questioning witnesses).
- The student and parents are called to a meeting with school authorities to discuss the matter.
- The school makes a final determination of guilt and decides on disciplinary action.
- The student and/or parents may appeal the decision before it becomes final.
How can an attorney help a high school student accused of cheating?
Since high school is not a democracy and your child is not on trial, you probably won't have use for official legal representation from an attorney. However, schools allow students who are accused of misconduct to have an attorney-advisor who can guide them through the disciplinary process to make sure the student's rights are protected. An experienced academic misconduct advisor will have a good working knowledge of the high school's policies and procedures and will help you understand how to navigate those procedures to the student's best advantage. The attorney-advisor will review the facts and evidence, provide guidance on how to present a compelling defense, and advise you on how to negotiate to have the allegations dismissed or the penalties minimized. In most cases, having an attorney-advisor can make a huge difference in the outcome, so the student's academic career is protected.
My child has been accused of cheating. What are our first steps?
If you are notified by the high school that your child is accused of cheating, the sooner you take action, the better your chances of minimizing the damage. We recommend taking the following steps:
Write down the details. Make a note of the accusation, what the school is saying, and your child's version of the alleged cheating incident. This is so you can recall the facts easily at a later date.
Review the Student Handbook. Make sure you understand school policies and the possible penalties for cheating, so you know what to expect. Make a note of any situation where your child may not have been treated in a manner consistent with school policies.
Contact academic misconduct defense attorney to act as an advisor. The sooner you get professional help, the better your child's chances of a better outcome.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a nationwide reputation for the successful defense of academic misconduct allegations. He understands the disciplinary processes of high schools, colleges, and universities alike, and he can provide expert guidance to ensure your child's rights are protected. Don't let an accusation of cheating derail your child's future. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to see how we can help.