Due to a perceived rise of academic dishonesty at the high school level, grades 10 through 12 Assistant Principal Jennifer Nzeza created an honor code committee to review the current school policy and its consequences. Consisting mostly of high school teachers and class officers, the committee held its first meeting in early March and plans to convene once a month.
Nzeza discussed the reasoning behind creating the honor code committee. “We’ve had a lot of academic dishonesty this school year at the high school level. The issue was brought up at a Shared Decision Making Team meeting because we just wanted to brainstorm,” she said. “[We asked] What can we do to change the culture here? Why is this happening? What can we do differently? We wanted to review our policy overall and the consequences as well.”
During the first meeting session, attendees reviewed three main topics: instances in which they have witnessed or heard of academic dishonesty, ideas on why students may resort to such behavior and possible solutions. Nzeza said that she was happy with the honesty both teachers and especially students displayed during discussion. “I’m really pleased with the openness that the kids and the teachers have shown… I would really like to change the culture [of academic dishonesty],” she said. “Some of that involves looking at why we assign homework and how it’s assigned… it’s a huge concept. It might be too lofty or take several years, but I’d like to see students not feel so pressured so that they don’t have to resort to something that’s unethical in the end.”
“I think it’s a good thing that we’re discussing these issues so that teachers are more aware of what’s going on,” class officer and tenth-grader Kelley Vinh said. “I feel like some students are under a lot of stress and really busy so they may tend to cheat more. They’re not living up to their full potential. They’re using someone else’s work as their own.”
As of now, no changes have been made to school or county policy. The academic dishonesty policy is put in place by the Sarasota County School Board, though individual schools set the consequences for violations. Through their meeting and discussing, the honor code committee hopes to eventually come to a consensus on the root of academic dishonesty and alter existing policy in order to lower instances of cheating. Physics teacher Roger Siegel said, “I’m hopeful that we can have a more shared experience with the honor code where the students have ownership of [it] and feel that they are aware of it and its daily presence on campus.”