New academic integrity policy in development

Changes to the district’s academic integrity policy are being proposed by Student Council and the administration in hopes of altering the consequences for academic dishonesty at the high school.

Members of Student Council were approached by Director of Facilities and Operations Harley Williams to help examine and make changes to the policy, especially the repercussions regarding the athletic and arts programs, Williams said.

Williams explained that he and Student Council are recommending a reduction in suspension time from a sports season or a theatre performance.

“Athletics would change from 20% [suspension] to 10%,” he said. “For theatre, I am recommending no lead cast or crew position for a performance rather than denying complete performance participation.”

Williams said these proposed changes came about after the district’s leaders were requested to review the policies they oversee.

“We were asked to look at our policies through a lens of equity and restorative practices,” he said.

Williams said he then sought advice from other parties such as the Athletic Board, who felt the academic integrity policy needed to be altered.

Any of the recommended changes still need to go through two readings at Board of Education meetings and be approved by the Board before being implemented, he said.

According to the current academic integrity policy, the offenses are currently divided into two categories: minor and major.

The policy states that for students in grades six to 12, minor offenses result in a teacher reporting instances of academic dishonesty to administration, or the student being put on academic probation.

Major offenses also result in academic probation, according to the policy, but also include no recognition for any academic or athletic awards, ineligibility for locally awarded scholarships and student leadership positions for six months, and possible in-school or out-of-school suspension.

Student Council president Quinn Hall said the severe nature of the consequences was another reason Student Council members cited for changing this policy.

“Our policy is very strict,” Hall explained. “It’s a lot more strict than Ohio State, which is a college. It didn’t seem fair. It doesn’t make sense for Ohio State to have a less strict policy around this.”

Hall emphasized the importance of the school shifting its focus more toward understanding why students would feel the need to cheat as opposed to punishing those that do.

Similarly, social studies teacher Anna Schottenstein said the repercussions of the new policy are important.

“I think that high school is a time in which you can fail,” Schottenstein said. “We as teachers, as parents and as a community can be there to use it as a learning experience.”

Schottenstein said she recognizes that suspension from extracurriculars can be unpleasant for students. She added that the current policy can potentially be applied in an inequitable way and is heavily focused on discipline.

“I think that generally with policy, it’s all about how it’s interpreted and how it’s applied,” Schottenstein said. “When thinking about discipline in general as our school tries to move towards more restorative practices, this is not an example of a restorative practice.”

Principal Kristin Robbins explained that this policy was devised around six or seven years ago after a group of students approached her and Williams with concerns of academic dishonesty amongst students.

“We started having conversations in regards to an honor code,” she said. “We thought of how we could push out to students and faculty that we value [academic integrity].”

Robbins explained that the group began to look deeper into the drug and alcohol policy the district follows.

“[Students] said that since academics is what we do, how might we align these two [policies] to show our value towards what happens in the classroom?” Robbins said.

She added that even with this policy, academic dishonesty has not decreased a significant amount.

Williams said that while there has not been a clear decline in academic dishonesty, measures have been put in place to prevent it.

“The administration and staff have taken steps to make academic dishonesty more difficult,” Williams said. “They encouraged students to come to them and ask for support whenever they feel the pressure to cheat.”

Schottenstein added that along with these changes to the academic integrity policy, the school’s expectations and values need to be reexamined.

“It’s a whole culture shift,” Schottenstein said. “If we as a school weren’t so heavily focused on academic achievement based on scores, and we were more focused on learning and thinking, students would have less motive to actually cheat.”