Prompted by student concerns, the Bexley City School District has revised its academic integrity policy to better deal with students who cheat, without suppressing learning.
Both the district's staff and board members spent hours on developing the revised policy, which outlines both the definition of academic integrity and the consequences if students are caught cheating.
The result is a revised policy that doles out discipline, Bexley High School Principal Harley Williams said, while giving students the chance to learn.
"We want students to learn from their mistakes, but not be ruined by their mistakes," Williams said.
Important to the new policy, he said, is the separation of behavior and learning.
The district first began to focus on changes to the policy when students approached board members, asking them to review the policy and strengthen it.
Marlee Snowdon, the board's vice president, said they heeded the students' advice and acted immediately.
"Our principle concern, with this -- or any policy -- is that our students are actively engaged in their learning so they are able to maximize their potential," Snowdon said. "Cheating on school work shows that the student is disengaged and is thus denying himself or herself the full benefits of the Bexley education. He or she is also denying their classmates an honest environment in which to learn."
With that in mind, Snowdon said the district administration and school board set to work to draft a revised policy.
One of the major changes involves the grade a student is given if caught cheating. Instead of receiving an automatic zero for the offending work, they are required to redo the assignment for no more than 59 percent of the earned grade. This way, Williams and his colleagues argued, students who are traditionally academically motivated can "dig out" of a poor grade while still learning the material.
Receiving a zero meant it was much harder to work upward, and there was the loss of learning that was associated with that zero.
"A grade should be reflective of what a student has or has not learned," Williams said.
It should not be reflective of behavior -- which the previous policy endorsed, he said. In other words, mastery of learning and behavior should not be blended together.
"It's clouded that way," argued Williams.
Other disciplines also apply, and could include suspension, academic probation, ineligibility for participation in athletics and/or extracurricular school activities for two weeks or two contests (whichever comes first), no public recognition at an academic honors function for the year, no recommendation for local scholarships, a meeting with parents and notification to the guidance counselor.
The board agreed, but was still looking for a deeper definition of cheating, and at different levels.
"Part of making the policy clearer is that we asked the administration to better define terms used in the policy, such as 'minor' or 'major' offenses," Snowdon said.
The language agreed upon defines a "minor" offense as one that "does not significantly impact the content of the academic product delivered by the student and may occur due to student oversight or error." For instance, failing to cite material using quotation marks is considered a minor offense.
A "major" offense, according to the policy, "significantly impacts the content of the academic product delivered by the student or consists of repeated minor violations." Plagiarism -- in which a student copies the homework of another student -- is considered a major offense.
"These 'minor' and 'major' distinctions are important because they affect the consequences for those found to be cheating," Snowdon said.
Consequences for each offense, at each grade level, are spelled out in the policy.
To view the policy, visit bexleycityschools.org and click on the Board of Education tab and district policies.