School principals and administrators often take it upon themselves to investigate and prosecute cheating scandals that don’t exist. In this day and age of advanced information technology capabilities both students on the one side, and administrators and prosecutors on the other side, have many options for researching, copying and sharing educational and testing materials in ways that simply weren’t available a generation ago. Oftentimes the clearly innocent and earnest efforts of students are seeking to learn and prepare for testing on route to the college of their choice are faced with the various studying resources freely available on the internet. At the same time, school administrators have failed to keep up with these resources and have failed to provide proper written policies, procedures and guidance to diligent students merely seeking to get ahead.
Principals and administrators seeking to make a name for themselves have been known to create alleged cheating scandals where none exist. Many students have been branded as cheaters after a cursory rush to judgment pursued by school administrators who have failed to afford students the presumption of innocence they are entitled to.
The Education Law of the State of New York requires that a finding of guilt in student disciplinary proceeding be proven competent and substantial evidence – something which is oftentimes lacking in alleged academic dishonesty prosecutions. Principals and administrators often rely on alleged admissions made by students when in fact no such admissions have been made. Most Americans don’t realize that school students, unlike adults or those standing accused in criminal proceedings, do not possess the same due process rights accorded to those in the criminal arena and in other courts.
Fighting a claim of academic dishonesty and cheating can be a lengthy process which can include up to five steps including: an informal conference with the Principal’s Office, an appeal to the Superintendent of Schools, an appeal to the Board of Education, a proceeding and petition before Education Department of the State of New York and an Article 78 Proceeding in New York State Supreme Court. While this all sounds time consuming and expensive, it highlights the point that students suspected of having engaged in academic dishonesty must move immediately to protect their interests.
From the very beginning, students are cautioned not to make any statements to school teachers, principals or administrators in context of alleged cheating and plagiarism charges. Typically, the prosecution in most instances will rely on, and indeed oftentimes concoct allegations of admissions having been made by students. Students are advised not to answer any questions posed in the context of any alleged cheating or plagiarism charges without first speaking to their parents and an attorney.
We offer a free initial consultation to students and parents of students alleged to have been engaged in incidents of academic dishonesty, testing cheating and plagiarism. For a consultation contact the Law Offices of Timothy J. O'Connor at (518) 426-7700.