Academic Integrity Policies Confront Cheating from the Get-Go This Fall

Students received copies of each department’s new academic integrity policy. Photo by Sawyer Thompson.

As students entered classes this fall, they were greeted with a slew of new policies focused on academic integrity, one for each department. For some classes, students were then asked to turn in a signed copy of those documents.

GDS’ expanded approach to countering cheating coincided with the return to full-time in-person school—after a period of virtual learning during which cheating incidents spiked, according to four students and a teacher. 

Assistant Principal for Academics Khalid Bashir told the Bit that the new efforts are the result of three years of discussions among administrators and teachers about how to revamp GDS’ approach to academic integrity. “I don’t think it was a matter of virtual learning being a catalyst for changing academic integrity policies,” he added. “It has always been something that has been in evolution.”

The administration revises the GDS student handbook each year and has made modifications to its academic integrity policies before, according to Bashir. But students have never before seen anti-cheating measures as comprehensive as the current ones.

Sophomore Ike Song said in an interview that teachers have placed a greater emphasis on academic integrity this year than they did during distance learning. Several students interviewed by the Bit speculated that the timing of the new policies’ rollout was tied to cheating during virtual school.

“Academic integrity was definitely introduced as a response,” junior Max Wang said. Since he expects cheating to be less prevalent now that school is entirely in person, Wang said “there isn’t really a need” for the new policies.

Senior Aidan Kohn-Murphy, the president of the Student Staff Council, said he took issue with the way GDS introduced its academic integrity policies this fall. He said the announcement of the new policies “was not a particularly welcoming response” as students returned to school after a trying year and a half.

“With students struggling with mental health issues, it’s a hard adjustment,” Kohn-Murphy said. “Academic integrity is very important,” he added, but “nobody thought that before this you were allowed to cheat.”

Bashir did not respond to a request for comment on Wang and Kohn-Murphy’s statements prior to the publication of this article.

Previously, the high school’s academic integrity policy was published only in the student handbook and the Hopper, the calendar provided to students at the beginning of each school year. The Hopper’s 2019-2020 policy and its current one warn that “incidents of academic dishonesty such as cheating and plagiarism will result in serious consequences.”

Now, in addition to that overarching statement, each academic department has created a policy tailored specifically to its classes. 

The English department has taken the additional measure of using digital software to check students’ written work for plagiarism. English Department Chair Aisha Sidibe declined a request for an interview.

In the past, Bashir said, students have only encountered the school’s academic integrity policies as a “disciplinary response.” The new measures, however, seek to make students aware of the policies before cheating incidents.

“I think it’s important to make these things public and transparent and a learning moment before they become a punitive moment,” Bashir said. To that end, teachers have used class time to review their department-specific policies with students. 

The change comes after almost two years of full or partial virtual learning that carried with them a rise in cheating and academic dishonesty. 

Science Department Chair Nina Butler-Roberts told the Bit that she observed an increase in cheating during virtual school. While taking assessments online, she said, students’ “natural instinct” was often to search Google to find answers. “The lines got blurred during the pandemic,” she said. 

Wang said there was “practically no way teachers could prevent cheating” during virtual school.

GDS was not unique in revamping its academic integrity policies this year after returning from distance learning. “If you look beyond GDS, it was a common conversation within the educational community about how student academic dishonesty has increased, like, tenfold during the pandemic,” Butler-Roberts said.

Junior Christian Freeman said, “I’ve heard teachers directly cite last year’s cheating as the reason for why they’re introducing that policy.”  

“It was so easy,” Freeman said of cheating during the pandemic. “Anyone who didn’t do that was insane.”

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