Changes needed in honor and reporting system

Victoria Bevard

“I will uphold personal and academic integrity in the TJ community.” Almost every Jefferson student has written or signed this agreement on a test, quiz or important assignment.

The idea behind the honor pledge or statement is a noble one. By having students sign a pledge before an assessment, teachers hope to remind students to maintain their integrity and prevent cheating.

The problem is that rehashing the need to prevent cheating eventually wears away at student morale. Although cheating countermeasures such as dividers, public service announcements and signing the honor pledge intend to target would-be cheaters, they impact everybody.

Admittedly, cheating is not to be taken lightly, and warrants an appropriate and swift response. However, generically applied policies such as signing an honor code serves to criticize and scrutinize students who have done nothing wrong.

The age old proverb states, “A few bad apples ruin the bunch”. This is especially true when it comes to integrity violations. The vast majority of Jefferson students do not engage in cheating and have no intention of doing so. Despite this, students have to go along with group policies that assume everybody will seize an opportunity to cheat.

This mentality detracts from the Jefferson community and causes students to feel blamed for the actions of a few cheaters. While the criminal justice system runs on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” generic cheating counter measures and lectures automatically assume everybody is “guilty” or has the capacity to cheat. People live up to expectations and making students feel reprehensible and likely to cheat are sure ways to ensure student discontent.

That being said, there are concrete steps that teachers and administration can take to prevent cheating while not subjecting the entire student population to unnecessary suspicion.

First, it needs to be easier to report an honor code violation. The current system lacks anonymity, thereby making students reluctant to bring cheaters to the attention of their teachers. An alternative system would be for students to anonymously submit tips to their teachers to pinpoint cheaters. In the future, the teacher could more closely monitor those specific students, rather than spreading surveillance attempts over the entire class.

Second, administration needs to melt out tougher punishments to people caught cheating. The current Jefferson policy uses the “three strikes rule” where each time someone in caught cheating, the punishments increase in severity, until the third time where the student is asked to leave Jefferson. Implementing a stricter punishment for the first cheating attempt such as suspension, and asking students to leave Jefferson after their second attempt to cheat would create a higher deterrence and punish exactly the people who are compromising our school’s integrity.

By ensuring that cheating is reported more consistently and punishments are severe, the Jefferson community can prevent honor violations without have to scrutinize the general student body. Ultimately, it’s those that cheat that should have to pay the price, not everybody else.