Parents: What to do if your child is caught cheating.

            If glancing over at a classmate’s test answer or scribbling an equation on the back of a hand are what comes to mind when you hear about students cheating, you need to keep reading! Technology and the internet have provided a vast, changing, and increasingly confusing landscape that has blurred the lines for students and instructors to properly navigate these waters. Add in the abrupt switch to various online platforms thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of fairly policing students to ensure academic integrity has rapidly transformed. Higher ed institutions set the rules for disciplinary proceedings, serve as investigators and adjudicators, and issue sanctions on students that can impact future education, career paths, earning potential, and even immigration status.

            By way of example, The Ohio State University reported a 37.9% increase in academic misconduct cases from the 2016/2017 to the 2020/2021 school year. Computer Science, Engineering, Chemistry, and Math courses produced the most accusations.

Thanks to COVID-19, assignments, quizzes, and exams all have intricate and differing instructions based on personal preference of professors and available resources; tests can be taken virtually, through lockdown browsers, virtual proctoring, or downloading and submitting PDFs of answers. Directions sometimes permit open note, open book, or are limited to specific resources such as one sheet of notes, usage of a prepared study guide or PowerPoint, or prohibit certain resources but silent on others, and anything in between that you can imagine.

            Combine this with the convenience of cheating, through cell phones and applications such as SnapChat and GroupMe, information sharing websites that describe subscription services to students as “tutoring” but really act as cheating databases, and just plain “Googling” of answers, students have a very different web to navigate going into this school year than ever before. And as for parents, if your reference point for cheating is to instruct your child not to sneak a peek at their friend’s paper during an exam, you will have drastically underprepared them for today’s college reality.

            For a quick starter’s guide, read the academic integrity code produced by your child’s school. Often that academic misconduct webpage will have examples of misconduct scenarios for caution. Look to the news for cheating scandals that have made headlines, such as the Air Force Academy cadets being suspended, or the North Carolina State University statistics class using to share answers earlier this year, or the OSU GroupMe scandal from 2017.

            Education can lead to prevention. However, if your student still finds themselves having to answer to an accusation, contact an advisor immediately to understand procedure, rights, options, and future implications.

Leslie A. Albeit, Esq, Student Rights Attorney

Albeit Weiker, LLP