Most students realize that plagiarism is a form of cheating—but did you know that it is possible to plagiarize yourself? Self-plagiarism is almost as common in high schools as other types of plagiarism—and it is taken just as seriously and disciplined just as severely. High schools, especially private schools, are under intense pressure to maintain high academic standards. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in students being unfairly accused of wrongdoing, which can have a serious impact on their future academic and professional careers.
If you have been accused of self-plagiarism by your high school, or if you are the parent of a student who is accused, you want to take every possible step to minimize the damage. Hiring an attorney-advisor can go along way toward protecting your student from long-term repercussions. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped many students defend against accusations of academic misconduct, including self-plagiarism.
What Is Self-Plagiarism, Exactly?
The definition of plagiarism, in general, involves copying someone else's work or ideas and using them as your own. With self-plagiarism, you're basically reusing and repurposing your own work in ways that are against school rules. Examples may include any/all of the following:
- Taking a paper you wrote for one class and turning it in as an assignment for another class.
- Copy/pasting sections of one homework assignment into another.
- Reusing research or data gathered for an earlier paper and using it in your final essay without doing additional work.
Why Is Self-Plagiarism Against the Rules?
For many high school students, reusing their own work doesn't seem like cheating because they actually did the work. In fact, many students see reusing their work as just a way of saving time because they are under pressure. However, schools look down on this practice because it means the student is doing less work to get more credit. To them, shortcuts like these are considered cheating because the student isn't fully earning the grade. Unfortunately for many students, they don't find out they broke the rules until the school disciplines them—and by then, the damage to their academic future may already be set in motion.
What Are the Penalties for Self-Plagiarism?
Every high school has its own policies in place for punishing incidents of cheating and academic misconduct. Some may discipline self-plagiarism less severely than other forms of cheating, especially if the student wasn't aware that it was cheating—however, those with stricter academic standards are likely to penalize it the same as other forms of plagiarism. Possible penalties may include:
- An “F” or zero on the assignment, which may affect your overall grade
- Being required to redo the assignment (or re-take the entire class)
- Required summer school or Saturday school
- A failing grade for the entire class, which could damage your GPA and hurt your acceptance into certain schools
- Being disqualified from certain honors programs, or from scholarships that could help pay for college
- A negative mark on your transcript, which could disqualify you from acceptance at certain schools
- At worst, being suspended or expelled from school
What Happens When You (or Your Child) Is Accused of Wrongdoing
Your high school/s specific disciplinary processes should be outlined in the Student Handbook your child received. For most high schools, the process of administering discipline will involve something similar to the following:
- The student is confronted by the teacher about the infraction.
- The teacher notifies the principal of the incident.
- The parents are formally notified of the allegations.
- The school investigates the allegation to see if it has merit, including reviewing the alleged plagiarized work, talking to witnesses, etc.
- The parents and student are called to a meeting with school authorities to discuss the matter.
- The school makes a final determination whether the student committed self-plagiarism, and if so, decides on appropriate discipline.
- The student and/or parents may appeal the decision before it becomes final.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
In a high school setting, you usually can't hire an attorney in an official capacity because this is not a legal matter. However, in disciplinary matters, most schools will allow an attorney to act in an advisory role for the student and parents. A good attorney-advisor will Have experience in student discipline matters, including the specific disciplinary process for your high school. The advisor can provide guidance about what is at stake and how to negotiate for the best possible outcome. If necessary, the advisor can help gather evidence to support your child's case, as well as procuring witnesses as needed. Having an attorney- advisor involved will also help keep the school accountable to its own policies, so your child is afforded a fair hearing. Statistically speaking, the chances of resolving the matter with no long-term damage are much higher when an attorney-advisor is involved.
How do I respond if my high school student is accused of misconduct?
Any accusation of academic misconduct could have serious repercussions for your student, so it's important to take prompt-yet-wise action to respond to the claims. Here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Don't take any accusation lightly. Taking a relaxed “kids will be kids” approach could backfire terribly on your student's academic record. Any accusation of cheating, plagiarism, or even self-plagiarism should be taken seriously.
- Avoid reacting in anger toward the school. You may feel defensive of your child, but a combative approach won't do your child any favors.
- Write down the details of what happened. Write down the school's version of what happened, as well as your child's version, so you can recall these details easily later.
- Review the Student Handbook. Find out the rules about self-plagiarism, the possible penalties, and the disciplinary process, so you know what to expect.
- Hire an attorney-advisor as soon as possible. The sooner you have professional help, the better your student's chances of a more favorable outcome.
Don't let a misunderstanding of the rules or a simple lapse in judgment create permanent repercussions for your child's future. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a recognized national expert in student discipline matters. He understands what is at stake for your child, and he knows how to navigate your school's disciplinary process to protect your child's rights and future career prospects. If your child has been accused of self-plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.