Plagiarism is perhaps the most common and widespread form of academic misconduct in high schools today—even more common than cheating on a test. And with so many online “homework help” sites like Chegg, Slader, and other platforms readily available, it's easier than ever for students to plagiarize—sometimes even without realizing they are committing a serious offense.
High school students today face a great deal of pressure these days to keep up their grades so they can get into good colleges and universities—and this can result in an increased temptation to plagiarize. Likewise, high schools themselves need to maintain a reputation for academic excellence—so they are under pressure to catch and punish plagiarism, often using plagiarism detectors like Turnitin and Copyleaks. The problem is that these checkers aren't foolproof, and sometimes high school students can be accused of plagiarizing when they had no intention of doing so.
If you're a high school student accused of plagiarizing, or if you are the parent of an accused student, there could be serious repercussions if the school decides to impose punishment. Accusations of academic misconduct can have a far-reaching impact on your student's academic and professional future. Having an experienced attorney-advisor in your corner can make a huge difference as to the outcome. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped thousands of students fight successfully against wrongful or unfair accusations of plagiarism and other forms of misconduct.
What Is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism describes any act of using/copying someone else's work or ideas and claiming them as your own. The most obvious examples of plagiarism are when a student copies someone's else's work word-for-word, but it also takes subtler forms—for example, “rewording” someone else's ideas to make them look original or incorporating information from a book into an assignment or paper but forgetting to credit the source. Plagiarism can even happen by accident—for example, by writing down an idea you think is original but was actually drawn from something else you once read.
Common Types of Plagiarism
Plagiarism can occur in many different ways. Here are just a few common examples:
- Direct plagiarism—a word-for-word transcription of someone else's writing without quoting or citing the source. This can be a portion of another document (e.g., copying a passage you took from Chegg) or copying an entire paper (also called global plagiarism).
- Mosaic plagiarism—drawing content from a variety of sources and combining them patchwork-style without crediting the sources.
- Hired/borrowed plagiarism—hiring or convincing someone to complete an assignment for you (e.g., buying a term paper online) then attributing it as yours.
- Paraphrased plagiarism—rewording someone else's original ideas to make it look as though you came up with yourself (essentially attempting to mask the fact that you're actually copying)
- Self-plagiarism—taking something you wrote for one assignment and turning it in for another assignment without creating new original material.
- Collaboration plagiarism—when you collaborate with other students on the research for an assignment, but each completes the assignment separately based on the research. (It's plagiarism because the research is shared and not original.)
Consequences for Plagiarism
Plagiarism is not only a form of academic misconduct; it is also illegal. For that reason, high schools take it very seriously when a student is accused of plagiarizing, and the consequences may be severe. Every high school sets its own disciplinary policy's in place, but below are some of the following common penalties for plagiarizing:
- An “F” or zero on the assignment, which may affect your grade
- Failing the entire class, which may affect your GPA, or even your ability to graduate on time
- Required summer school
- Required re-taking of the course
- Repeating an entire school year
- Being barred from certain honors programs
- Being disqualified from scholarships which could help pay for college
- Suspension or expulsion
- A permanent notation on your transcript, which may affect your ability to get accepted into certain schools—or even affect your ability to get a job
What Happens If Your Child Is Accused of Plagiarism?
You can refer to your high school's Student Handbook to see their process for administering discipline for students. That being said, The disciplinary process for most high schools involves something similar to the following :
- Notifying the student of the accusation
- Notifying the parents
- Investigation of the claim (reviewing the teacher's notes and the evidence)
- A meeting between the school authorities, the student, and the parents to review the matter.
- The school makes a final determination and decides on disciplinary action
- The student and/or parents may appeal the decision before it becomes final.
Can you hire an attorney to represent your child for high school disciplinary actions?
Since your child is not on trial, and since high school is not a court of law, you will probably not be allowed official legal representation for your student. However, you will be allowed to have an attorney act as an advisor for your student. A good attorney-advisor will have a keen understanding of high school disciplinary processes, including the specific process for your school. He will offer professional guidance, help you gather evidence, and even procure witnesses, if necessary, to help your student create a compelling defense. Perhaps most importantly, the presence of an attorney-advisor helps keep the school accountable to its own policies, so your child's rights are protected. In many cases, hiring an attorney-advisor can make a huge difference in the outcome, including minimizing the penalties or even having the allegations dismissed.
What do I do first if my child has been accused of plagiarizing?
If your child is accused of plagiarism, the penalties could do a lot of damage to their future. It's important to act quickly to minimize that damage. We recommend the following:
- Avoid direct confrontation with the school. You're likely to be naturally defensive, especially if you believe this is a misunderstanding—but getting involved in a conflict with the school likely won't end well for your student.
- Write down the details of what happened. This includes what the school is officially claiming your child did, along with your child's version of the events, so you can recall important details later.
- Keep all documentation. This includes written notices as well as a copy of the assignment your child turned in.
- Review the Student Handbook to familiarize yourself with the rules and any procedures for discipline.
- Hire an attorney-advisor as soon as possible. The sooner the advisor gets involved, the better your student's chances for coming away from this incident with minimized damage.
There is too much at stake for your child's future to have it be jeopardized by a simple misunderstanding or a lapse in judgment. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is recognized nationally for his expertise in student discipline cases, and he can provide the guidance needed to protect your child's academic and professional future. For professional help in fighting unfair accusations of misconduct from your high school, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.