Not that either one is an acceptable thing to do, but the following situation presented itself yesterday and I am having a difficult time deciding which it is.
Yesterday, after receiving current progress reports, a young man in my last hour class presented me with a completed and graded major writing assignment and said, "Miss G, you forgot to record my 30 points for my writing assignment." I looked at it, looked at him, and said, "That is not yours. You just erased someone else's name and wrote yours over it." It was pretty obvious: The pencil was darker and there were parts of the other name still visible despite erasing.
It went on. "No, Miss G, this is mine. You forgot it. You gave this back to me yesterday and forgot to record mine. And it shows on my progress report that I didn't do it. And I did. It is right here." I shook my head and told him no yet again and said, "I can tell you erased someone else's name and wrote yours on. I won't accept it." I even gave him the name of the kid whose paper it likely had been since the student in front of me told me I should check with that other student of mine the other day to verify that the student in front of me had done and does do notes on short stories. He emphatically said, "No, it isn't [that kid's] work. It's mine." He remained insistent that I take the assignment a few more minutes until finally sitting down. But I could hear him right behind me complaining to his friend that I wouldn't take "his" paper.
So I turned around and told him, "Fine. I'll take it and think about it. But I don't want to hear any more about it." His response, " ... ... ... . " I put it directly in my bag and put the bag under the desk. His non-response said volumes, really.
Once class, and therefore school, was over, I compared handwriting. Unwittingly, he had just given me a new sample via a comprehension quiz they had just taken, as had my other classes. So I pulled his out and the kid whose paper I thought it was, and amazingly, his didn't match... but the kid whose paper I thought it was was a definite match. I asked some other teachers as they walked by. They agreed.
I made copies of all three papers on the copier and made a copy of the page in the student handbook where it talks about plagiarism and cheating, and wrote up a discipline referal. When I saw the associate principal and gave her the run down, her response was so disheartening, "Call the parents and tell them and him that if it happens again, disciplinary action will be taken." Oh, and I could still give the student a zero on it. Thanks for small favors.
I called the young man's home. His father answered. I explained the reason for my call. He said to me, in a thick eastern European accent, "This is a very serious matter. Here is my wife's cell phone number. Please call her. She is a teacher too." Putting the receiver down and getting ready to make the next call, I thought to myself that this young man is in big trouble.
His mother was shocked, embarrassed, and sad. She told me he was going to have dire consequences, including no Halloween party this weekend. By her request, she, her son, and I are meeting tomorrow after school. I was ever so glad she understood. She asked if I had already told him I knew with certainty about the handwriting samples, and I had not, so she was greatful to be able to ask him, "So, what happened in last hour today, son?" The nice mom sneak attack.
From the other teachers I talked with, cheating/plagiarism is rampant at this high school. In the junior high I had caught a few kids copying research info from the Internet and turned them in. They each got three days suspension and F's on the research reports. Apparently, things are not like that at the high school. Other high schools in the district are, though, as one teacher who was at a different high school informed me. And she was sad to hear the response from this administrative office.