• Is cheating in an “honors” class contradictory?

    Date: 05.30.12 | by Judge Tom.

    At Sequoia Union High School in California, students enrolled in honors classes sign an academic honesty pledge at the beginning of the semester. A parent also signs the pledge wherein it is stated that cheating is grounds for removal from the class.

    In the spring semester of 2012, several students in Honors English copied each other’s homework. Once caught, they were expelled from the class and demoted to regular English. The father of sophomore John Doe disagreed with the school’s discipline and filed a lawsuit claiming a violation of due process and excessive punishment. Jack Berghouse wanted his son reinstated to the honors class to keep him on track for a shot at an Ivy League college.

    Photo by Sean MacEntee (Flickr)

    This case raises some interesting issues. At first glance, it seems fairly straightforward – there are consequences for cheating. They were spelled out in the pledge signed in order to take the class and Mr. Berghouse doesn’t deny the fact that his son cheated. So, is this a frivolous lawsuit? Does ethics come into play when considering the plaintiff is asking for reinstatement regardless of the cheating? What lesson is learned by going to court demanding something from the school that is not a right but a privilege that’s been abused by the student? What about the funds spent by the school defending this lawsuit? Are the legal expenses incurred a good use of taxpayer’s dollars? If the court dismisses the lawsuit, should the parents be required to pay the legal expenses of the school? Why or why not?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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