These days, high school students face greater pressure than ever to maintain high grades and perform well in school so they can get into the best colleges and ultimately land high-paying jobs. It's somewhat natural for students to look for any advantage to help them reach that goal—but when they cross the line into an unfair advantage, the consequences can be severe and long-lasting. Obtaining unauthorized advance knowledge of a test or assignment is a form of academic misconduct that can result in severe penalties and jeopardize your education. Unfortunately, schools are so sensitive to this issue that sometimes innocent or well-meaning students get accused of this type of misconduct, as well.
If you're a high school student facing disciplinary action for obtaining unauthorized advance knowledge—or if you're the parent of a child who is accused—there's too much at stake to leave things to chance. High school is not a democracy, and the odds are not always in favor of the student accused of wrongdoing. Hiring an attorney-advisor to assist in these matters can make a huge difference in the outcome. Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping accused high schoolers and their parents navigate the tricky waters of student discipline.
What Does It Mean to Obtain Unauthorized Advance Knowledge?
Obtaining unauthorized advance knowledge refers to a situation in which you have access to test materials or other helpful resources before an assignment or test is given and without the instructor's express permission. It's basically any situation in which you gain an unfair advantage by obtaining the answers before the questions are asked. Examples may include:
- Obtaining and/or circulating answers to a test before the test is given
- Viewing assignment answers from an unaccepted online resource
- Snapping a photo of a teacher's test key found in/on the teacher's desk
- Hacking into the school computer and finding the teacher's lesson plan in order to get a jump on assignments
Why Is Obtaining Unauthorized Advance Knowledge Considered Cheating?
Schools take a strict view of obtaining advance access for a couple of important reasons:
- It bypasses the learning process. When you obtain the answers beforehand, you no longer have to do the work to find the answers, which means you didn't really learn the material—and yet, using those answers inflates your grade to make it appear as though you did learn it.
- It gives you an unfair advantage. Teachers often grade on the curve, and obtaining advance knowledge can result in an artificially inflated grade which affects the grades of other students.
Consequences for Obtaining Unauthorized Advance Knowledge
Obtaining advance knowledge without permission is a serious academic offense, and sometimes it compounds with other offenses (for example, breaking into an office or hacking into a computer). Each high school has its own policies for disciplining academic misconduct, but some of the possible consequences for advance knowledge include:
- Getting “F” or zero on the assignment, or the entire course—which will likely drop your GPA and hurt your academic record
- Being required to make up the course through summer school
- Being required to repeat an academic year
- Being disqualified from extra-curricular activities or honors societies, which could hurt your chances for admission to certain schools
- Being disqualified from scholarships which could help pay for college
- Having a negative mark on your transcript, which could also affect your college prospects
- Being suspended or expelled from school
What Happens When a Student Is Accused?
Each school has its own disciplinary process for students who commit academic misconduct, and you can usually find your school's policies in the Student Handbook. In most cases, though, the process looks something like the following:
- The student is approached (usually by the teacher)
- The school authorities are notified by the teacher
- The parents are notified of the accusation and possible consequences
- The school investigates the alleged incident to see if there is evidence to support the accusation
- The school authorities meet with the parents and the student to discuss the allegation and hear the student's side of the story
- The school makes a determination, and if it believes the student is guilty, decides on a punishment
- The student and/or parents may appeal the decision before it becomes final.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Since high school isn't a court of law, and the offense may or may not have legal implications, many parents wouldn't think of hiring an attorney—at least, in an official capacity. Indeed, most high schools would frown on bringing an attorney to an informal hearing. However, schools do allow parents and students to consult with an attorney acting in an advisory role—and doing so can make a huge difference in the outcome. A good attorney-advisor can review the accusations with you (and/or your child), review the school's disciplinary policies, review the available evidence, and give you sound advice as to how to prepare a convincing defense to demonstrate the student's innocence. In addition, the presence of an attorney-advisor helps keep the school accountable to its own policies, so the student's rights are protected throughout the process. In many cases, having an attorney-advisor can go a long way toward having the allegations dismissed or receiving a more lenient penalty—preferably one that does little or no damage to the child's prospects for college and career.
My Child Has Been Accused of Wrongdoing. What Do I Do Next?
If your high school student has been accused of obtaining unauthorized advance knowledge of an assignment or test, you may only have a brief period of time to intervene before the school renders harsh discipline. Do the following as soon as possible:
- Make detailed notes of what allegedly happened. Include both the school's version and your child's version. Do this while everything is fresh in your mind, so you don't have trouble recalling these details later. Also, save a copy of all documentation, including written notices.
- Review the Student Handbook. Become familiar with the disciplinary process, so you know what to expect.
- Hire an attorney-advisor to help you. An attorney-advisor can greatly increase the chances of a favorable resolution that protects your child's academic record.
If you're a student accused of wrongdoing, don't allow a mistake, a misunderstanding, or a lapse in judgment to derail your future. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped thousands of students facing academic misconduct allegations across the country. Act now to protect your future prospects. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.