September 21, 2007
SAT & B. & E. (via The Mother Judd):
School cheating scandal divides N.H. town: Criminal charges too harsh, some say (Sarah Schweitzer, September 19, 2007, Boston Globe)
HANOVER, N.H. - Academics is serious business in this well-to-do town, where life revolves around Dartmouth College. Ivy League credentials rank alongside Subaru wagons and restored farmhouses as status symbols, and high school students are expected to excel and land acceptances to prestigious universities.
So, as final exams loomed and pressure built last June at Hanover High School, some students hatched a scheme for acing the tests: One evening after school was out, a group of students entered the school building, authorities say. While some stood sentry in hallways, others entered a classroom and used stolen keys to break into a teacher's filing cabinet and steal exams for advanced math honors, advanced math, Algebra II, and calculus. Five days later, another group stole chemistry finals. In total, some 50 students are suspected of participating in the thefts, either helping to plan them or receiving answers from stolen exams.
Rather than issuing suspensions or grade demotions, school officials notified police. And after a seven-week investigation, the police prosecutor handling the case brought criminal charges against nine students. Last week, the prosecutor notified the nine students' parents that if they chose to take the cases to trial, he could raise misdemeanor charges to felonies, which carry possible prison terms of 3 1/2 to seven years.
Parents of the accused are furious and frantically trying to reduce charges to violations that carry no criminal penalties, penalties they say could harm their children's chances of attending college or securing employment. The scandal has divided the community, with some residents laying blame squarely on the nine accused students - dubbed "the Notorious Nine" - while others have questioned whether the intense competitiveness of 750-student Hanover High forced students into positions of having to cheat.
Some have also questioned the motives of police, suggesting they are using the incident to show that children of privilege - the parents of the accused include a physician, a business school professor, a hospital president, and a columnist at a local newspaper - are not above the law.
Note that the counterargument is essentially that they are above the law and that the criminality is just a product of the "highly competitive academic environment." You don't hear a whole lot of sympathy for them though, outside of the parents of kids who are involved.
Reading, writing, and cheating (Joan Vennochi, September 20, 2007, Boston Globe)
[T]hose parents who are angry that school administrators in Hanover turned a case of breaking and entering over to police also seem extreme in their defense of their children's alleged wrongdoing.Posted by Orrin Judd at September 21, 2007 2:58 PM
As Superintendent of Schools Wayne Gersen told the Globe, "We have never called the police for a cheating incident. But there is never a time when we would not call the police when someone breaks into our building."
The parents are trying to get the charges reduced to violations that carry no criminal penalties. Such penalties could jeopardize their child's chances of attending college or getting hired for a job.
"What's frightening as a parent is that a 17-year-old makes one little mistake and he's going to have a potential prison sentence," said Jim Kenyon, a columnist for The Valley News based in Lebanon, N.H.
As the mother of two teenagers, I agree. The prospect of jail and a promising future derailed is frightening. But it is also scary to hear a parent equate an allegation of breaking and entering into a school for the purpose of stealing exams as "one little mistake." This is, at minimum, a very big mistake.