You are writing a paper for a college or high school course. You are overworked and haven’t slept in days. Your friend, who took the same course last year, helpfully offers you their A paper. Or maybe you find exactly what you are looking for in an article. You use a lot of the same language from the article, but through oversight or otherwise, neglect to attribute your source. In either case, you make a few adjustments and submit the paper as your own work.
Or perhaps you are taking an open book exam in class. You open your Blackberry only to discover you have inadvertently broken the school’s rules. Or the proctor has caught you peeking at someone else’s paper.
Whatever the circumstances, you find your school career is threatened with a charge of academic dishonesty. What can you do?
A charge of academic dishonesty can be difficult to fight, but there may be some hope. A good attorney will start with a careful reading of the school’s student manuals. These manuals are like a contract between you and the school. They spell out the procedures the school should follow. Maybe you were notified of your offense, but were not given an opportunity for a hearing as promised in the manual. Maybe the nature of your offense is ambiguous and the school rules do not prohibit the conduct.
A skillful lawyer can help you determine whether you have a basis to fight the charge. Even if you were knowingly dishonest and have already confessed, an attorney may work to reduce the punishment. Maybe you were suffering from excessively traumatic personally circumstances at the time and have an otherwise stellar record for honesty. Maybe the punishment is unduly severe.
If you do receive notice that you are charged with dishonesty, consult an attorney who specializes in school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve all your rights. Do not attempt to handle the matter yourself without counsel. You may inadvertently cut yourself off from a valid defense if you should say the wrong thing. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.