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Policy on cheating changes at Laguna Beach High School

Under the new ethics code, students will have a second chance before being required to put such a violation on the Common App that goes to universities.

September 27, 2012|By Joanna Clay

Marina Drade understands the academic pressures of high school.

The Laguna Beach High School senior remembers staying up late most nights during her sophomore year to finish work for Advanced Placement and honors courses, such as AP European History and honors English.

Sleep? That was a luxury mostly reserved for weekends.

"The pressure is high," said Marina.

It doesn't surprise her that some students buckle under the six hours or more of course work and take an easier route: cheating.

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Until recently, the high school's policy on the issue was zero tolerance.

Students were required to put their first ethics violation, including cheating, on the "Common App" — an online application used by nearly 500 public and private universities such as Chapman University, USC and the University of San Diego.

That policy is now changing.

Principal Joanne Culverhouse recently announced that the school would allow an initial warning, which would include some type of ethics assignment. The second offense would require reporting it on the Common App.

"All kids make mistakes. Our job as educators is to help them recover from their mistakes," Culverhouse said. "The first offense is to work with them and have them understand that if they have a second offense, they don't have a choice. They have to report it on their Common App."

The new policy is an improvement, Marina said.

"I think it is a better approach than before, because it gives students a chance to get a warning before going on the Common App," she said.

Jovan Majano, a senior, said the school has been paying closer attention to students, especially during test-taking. He heard students had taken pictures of the standardized tests with their phones; now teachers require students to place their phones in plastic pouches.

"It's basically about our development, our character," he said about the policy. "If you just don't learn your lesson, then it's fair to say you ruined your chances."

Chapman University Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief Admission Officer Michael Drummy, who graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 1966, said Chapman takes ethics violations seriously during the admissions process.

Drummy said he wasn't familiar with the warning approach, calling it a "do-over" by not requiring reporting of an initial offense.

He said it might pose ethical questions for school officials and students when filling out the app, if they chose to not disclose cheating.

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