Many high schools in Maine consider academic misconduct a serious offense. Not only does an academic dishonesty charge come with strict penalties, but it also damages your child's reputation. Participating in extracurricular activities, finding a part-time job, or getting into a decent college can also disappear with an academic misconduct allegation.
As a parent, you want to give your child the best chances to succeed. An academic integrity incident can jeopardize that success, especially if your child was falsely accused. How can you protect your child's reputation? An experienced attorney-advisor for student discipline matters can help you deal with your child's school and ensure you know your child's rights.
What Is Academic Misconduct?
Academic misconduct is any behavior a student or faculty member does to gain an unfair advantage in an academic setting. Engaging in dishonest actions for schoolwork is most common in high schools, colleges, and universities, although it happens at every educational level. Parents and students should always check their high school's student handbook for policies regarding academic honesty. Schools may also refer to these rules as an honor code or academic integrity policy.
What are some examples of academic misconduct in high school?
- Plagiarism: Plagiarism is taking someone else's work and passing it off as one's own. Students must cite their sources properly when completing research papers, essays, or other projects. Most schools encourage students to ask their teacher if they're unsure about citing a source properly to avoid unintentional plagiarism. The plagiarized source isn't always a book or journal article, either. A student could steal from their friend's essay, and it would still be plagiarism. Also, using work previously done for another assignment and recopying it into a new one is self-plagiarism.
- Cheating: Cheating is any dishonest or deceitful act committed in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage. Making a “cheat sheet” and sneaking it into a test or trying to steal test answers from a teacher are some examples of cheating. By the time they reach high school, students should know what's right and what's wrong when it comes to taking tests and completing homework assignments.
- Falsification: Falsification is intentionally providing false information in an effort to mislead. Making up data or information for a project is falsification, as is inventing a source to use as a citation in a research paper. More serious forms of falsification could be providing false information to get out of classes or assignments or fabricating academic records.
- Unauthorized collaboration: Usually, a teacher will say when students can work with each other on projects or assignments. When students do work together, and they're not supposed to, teachers could accuse them of unauthorized collaboration. The line between helping another student and giving them answers can be thin, and students may be wrongfully accused of collusion when they're completely innocent.
- Inappropriate use of technology: Most schools have policies against using school or personal electronic devices to cheat. Storing answers on a smartphone to use in class or logging into the school's online platform as another student to complete an assignment are examples of inappropriate use of technology.
How Do Maine High Schools Deal with Academic Misconduct?
Since academic misconduct isn't a legal offense, schools can deal with it on an individual basis. In Maine, most high schools deal with discipline for academic misconduct on their own, or may follow guidance from the school district or county.
Penalties for academic misconduct
At some schools, like Lewiston High School in Lewiston, ME, all forms of academic dishonesty carry the same punishments. For a first offense, students get a zero on the assignment they cheated on, the school contacts parents, and the student must meet with administrators. For a second and all subsequent offenses, students face the same penalties with the addition of an in-school suspension.
The Bangor, ME public school department considers plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, and fraud all violations of the academic integrity policy and hands out penalties on Levels I, II, and III. A classroom teacher handles a Level I offense, the school Principal a Level II offense, and the Superintendent or School Committee a Level III offense. Penalties range from a written apology to possibly filing criminal charges.
The handbook for all Bangor public schools is general, allowing individual schools to craft specific academic misconduct policies. But there's a lack of definition of what constitutes the different levels of offenses. Plus, “other remedies that are deemed appropriate” is on the list of acceptable penalties. This vague language means that teachers and administrators can interpret academic integrity violations as they see fit. With such open-ended rules, the cards are stacked against students accused of academic misconduct.
Students at public schools have certain rights when it comes to suspension. If they're barred from attending school for a long-term suspension, students have a federal right to due process. Due process would be a fair disciplinary hearing that allows students to defend themselves.
How to react to an academic misconduct accusation
If your child faces an academic misconduct allegation, the first thing you should do is contact the school for more information. Listen to both the school's and your child's account of the incident, then review the relevant student handbooks and policies regarding academic integrity. Gathering all the facts and resources possible will help you determine if your child was falsely accused or not.
Can a Student Discipline Advisor Help?
If your child has been wrongfully accused of academic misconduct and you want to fight the school on it, you'll need an experienced student discipline ally at your side. An attorney-advisor can examine all the school, district, and state policies regarding academic misconduct to ensure the school follows its processes correctly. A student defense legal advisor can also let you know what your student's options and rights are when dealing with their school.
Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have assisted high school and college students across the country in their defense of academic misconduct allegations. Your child's future is on the line. Call the firm at 888-535-3686 for an initial consultation with a trusted academic misconduct attorney.
Maine 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:
- Acton School Department
- Airline Community School District
- Alna School Department
- Arundel School Department
- Auburn School Department
- Augusta School Department
- Bangor School Department
- Bath School Department
- Beddington School Department
- Berwick School Department
- Biddeford School Department
- Bowerbank School Department
- Brewer School Department
- Bridgewater School Department
- Brunswick School Department
- Bucksport School Department
- Buxton School Department
- Cape Elizabeth School Department
- Caratunk School Department
- Caribou School Department
- Carrabassett Valley School Department
- Caswell School Department
- Chebeague Island School Department
- Coplin Plantation School Department
- Deblois School Department
- Dedham School Department
- Deer Isle-Stonington Community School District
- Dennistown Plantation School Department
- Dresden School Department
- East Machias School Department
- East Range Community School District
- Easton School Department
- Ellsworth School Department
- Falmouth School Department
- Fayette School Department
- Five Town Community School District
- Flanders Bay Community School District
- Franklin School Department
- Freeport School Department
- Gilead School Department
- Glenburn School Department
- Glenwood Plantation School Department
- Gorham School Department
- Grand Isle School Department
- Great Salt Bay Community School District
- Hanover School Department
- Harmony School Department
- Hermon School Department
- Hersey School Department
- Highland Plantation School Department
- Isle au Haut School Department
- Islesboro School Department
- Jay School Department
- Kittery School Department
- Lake View Plantation School Department
- Lewiston School Department
- Limestone School Department
- Long Island School Department
- Lowell School Department
- Madawaska School Department
- Maine School Administrative District 1 – 77
- Maranacook Community School District
- Medford School Department
- Millinocket School Department
- Monhegan Plantation School Department
- Monmouth School Department
- Moosabec Community School District
- Moro Plantation School Department
- Mount Desert Community School District
- Nashville Plantation School Department
- Norway School Department
- Oak Hill Community School District
- Old Orchard Beach School Department
- Old Town School Department
- Orland School Department
- Peninsula Community School District
- Pleasant Ridge Plantation School Department
- Portland School Department
- Raymond School Department
- Richmond School Department
- Sanford School Department
- Scarborough School Department
- Schoodic Community School District
- Seboeis Plantation School Department
- South Portland School Department
- Southern Aroostook Community School District
- The Forks Plantation School Department
- Topsham School Department
- Upton School Department
- Waterboro School Department
- Waterville School Department
- Wells-Ogunquit Community School District
- West Forks Plantation School Department
- Westbrook School Department
- Westport Island School Department
- Windham School Department
- Winthrop School Department
- Wiscasset School Department
- York School Department
It is critical to make certain academic misconduct charges at your child's Maine 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 Maine 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.