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Petaluma City Schools |  AR  5131.9  Students

Academic Honesty   

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This regulation presents the district's philosophy regarding academic honesty and cheating, defines terms relevant to the regulation, and describes the process teachers are to use in dealing with students who cheat.


It is the intent of the Board and the district that student cheating be dealt with consistently and effectively. When students are not academically honest, they cheat not only themselves but others in their class with whom they are compared. Therefore, students who cheat are to be dealt with swiftly, strictly, and fairly by the school in a manner aimed at changing their future behavior.

Thus, teachers and staff suspecting cheating are to investigate to determine whether cheating has occurred and are to follow the procedures set forth below in dealing with the cheating. This regulation shall be included in all teacher handbooks throughout the district to assist teachers in following consistent procedures in dealing with cheating.


The following definitions are meant as guidelines and are not all inclusive. These guidelines should be interpreted fairly and broadly to accomplish the philosophy set forth above and in the Board Policy on Academic Honesty, BP 5131.9.

Cheating: In academics cheating is generally defined as deceiving or misrepresenting in a manner which creates a false impression of student performance in a class. Cheating includes, but is not limited to, copying another's work in whole or in part, passing off another's work as one's own, plagiarism, fostering cheating, conspiring to cheat, or other tricks and devices which create a misimpression about a student's performance, including the Other Academically Dishonest conduct which is described below. A teacher may reasonably conclude that a student is cheating if during an exam the student is seen looking at another student's paper.

The intent of these procedures is to deal with academic cheating. Thus, in P.E. the rules of any given sport apply to penalize improper conduct. For example, if a P. E. student is offside playing football, his team will be penalized in accordance with the rules of football, the procedures set forth here will not apply.

Fostering Cheating: A student who intentionally allows his/her paper to be copied is cheating as much as the student doing the copying. Such individuals shall be sanctioned the same as the person doing the copying. Students are responsible for the security of their own tests and papers.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is a form of cheating whereby a student attempts to pass off someone else's written work as the student's. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, copying directly from an encyclopedia, textbook or website when writing a report without providing credit through footnotes. It is unnecessary to copy an entire article for the copying to be plagiarism. Peer editing assigned or allowed by the teacher is not plagiarism. Assignments which may be handled in a cooperative manner should be expressly designated by the teacher. Other than peer editing, only cooperative assignments are to be shared with other students before they are turned in for credit.

Conspiracy to Cheat: Aiding another in cheating is considered to be cheating itself. Such aiding may be subject to sanctions if a student takes at least one action in furtherance of a plan to cheat. The cheating need not be accomplished for a student to be guilty of conspiring to cheat.

Other Academically Dishonest Conduct: It is impossible to define every means by which a student may try to manipulate the system in an attempt to obtain higher grades. Suffice it to say that any misconduct by which a student attempts to give the impression of a false student performance is prohibited by the District's Academic Honesty Policy and this regulation. Other Academically Dishonest Conduct includes, but is not limited to, stealing the key to a test, stealing or altering a teacher's grade book, hacking/entering a teacher's electronic grading system, or forging a teacher's signature for purposes of receiving academic credit. Other Academically Dishonest Conduct would be sanctioned the same as cheating. In addition, some situations which constitute Other Academically Dishonest Conduct may also be disciplinary problems which should receive attention through the disciplinary referral process. For example, if theft is involved with Other Academically Dishonest Conduct, such misconduct may also constitute a suspension or expulsion offense under Education Code section 48900, subd, (g).

Not Cheating: Peer or parent/guardian editing, where allowed, or working cooperatively on assignments on which the teacher allows cooperation, do not constitute cheating. Studying for tests and exams with other students is appropriate, although if there is some question, the individual teacher should be asked to clarify what is allowed.

Evidence of Cheating: In order to sanction a student for cheating, the teacher must have evidence that cheating occurred. The teacher should be able to clearly verbalize what objective proof or evidence there is to indicate that the student cheated. Mere suspicion is not enough. Educated suspicion is similarly insufficient. Teachers should be aware that if they accuse a student of cheating and do not have objective evidence that the student cheated, the Superintendent may change the student's grade under Education Code 49066 on the basis that it would be "bad faith" to punish a student for cheating without evidence. Once again, if a student is observed looking at another student's paper during a test, that would be sufficient evidence that the student was cheating.

Informing Students of the Policy

Within the first week of the beginning of each class, teachers and students will discuss course expectations and the importance of doing honest work. An abbreviated version of this regulation shall appear in announcements made to high school students at the beginning of each school year such as in student handbooks.

Sanctions for Cheating

Teachers at all levels should take every opportunity to introduce and reinforce the philosophy of academic honesty and to define clearly what constitutes cheating. Once a determination has been made that cheating has occurred, the following sanction will apply:

The student will receive a failing grade on the assignment(s) in question. The teacher will make good faith and diligent efforts to contact the parent/guardian by phone or in person to discuss the matter.

For repeated incidents, or those that go beyond a single assignment, the student will be referred for disciplinary consideration under Education Code 48900(g), theft of school or personal property, and/or 48900 (k), defiance of authority.

Alteration of Records

In the event that a student has been found to have altered grades, grade books, transcripts or any permanent records relating to performance, attendance or behavior, the consequences would include, but would not be limited to, suspension, recommendation for expulsion, or involuntary transfer.

Appeal Process

Students or parents/guardians may appeal any decision concerning cheating directly to the teacher within a reasonable time after the parent/guardian is informed of the cheating. If the teacher denies the appeal, the teacher shall inform the student or parent/guardian of their right to appeal and shall provide them with a copy of this administrative regulation.

If the appeal is not resolved at the teacher level, the parent/guardian may appeal the matter to a site administrator. An appeal at this level may be made by the student or parent/guardian by presenting the school principal with a written request. This request must be received by the principal not more than 10 school days or 14 calendar days after the appeal to the teacher is rejected, whichever time period is longer. The principal will then respond within a reasonable time.

The principal will then determine whether a grade should be changed in accordance with section 49066. If the parents/guardian disagree with the principal's determination, they may appeal the matter to the Superintendent or designee. If not resolved at that level, the parent/guardian may appeal directly to the Board of Education, whose decision is final.

(cf. 5121- Grades/Evaluation of Student Achievement)


approved: June 25, 2002 Petaluma, California