What to Do If You’re Accused of Cheating at School

Jul. 14, 2020 By Andrew Miltenberg

What to Do If You’re Accused of Cheating at School

If you or your child has been accused of cheating on an exam or term paper, the consequences of being found responsible for this policy violation can be substantial. From reprimands to expulsions, you are looking at potentially severe penalties, including denial to attend graduate school and professional programs.

Your Student Handbook should state the consequences of cheating as well as the process for determining your guilt or innocence. Most schools will conduct a hearing before a group of professors to decide your fate. It is critical that you thoroughly review the Student Handbook to know what to expect and carefully review the charges being made against you as well. The standard of evidence, often “clear and convincing evidence,” should be stipulated in the Handbook.

It is also critical that you promptly hire an academic integrity lawyer to help you prepare for the fast-moving process. Evidence in such hearings can be technically derived from school networks and your computers. You need an experienced professional to obtain the evidence and help gather yours to support your defense.

Additionally, since courts rarely overturn school decisions on academic issues, you need to give yourself the best chance of prevailing on campus. An academic integrity lawyer gives you that best chance.

What Constitutes Cheating?

The most common form of cheating is plagiarism. Plagiarism involves using someone else’s words or ideas and passing them off as your own by not providing credit, either intentionally or inadvertently. Sharing answers with a fellow student is another common form of cheating.

Colleges have sophisticated ways of identifying cheating. Many schools use Zoom and other platforms for online learning and students are being accused of academic integrity violations more than ever before. 

Evidence for a Cheating Hearing

Evidence for a cheating hearing can be complex. The school may have an advantage by reviewing your college network Internet searches or using a college-controlled student resource site like Blackboard to do so. They will also seek access to your computer, smart phone, and tablet to analyze when you accessed the Internet from a non-campus network and what your searches constituted. They will also look at your emails.  From these reviews, they will seek to prove you were caught cheating on a test.

Your academic integrity lawyer can help you find favorable information as well as identify the lack of compelling negative information from these and other sources. Most schools should give you the right to see the evidence they will rely on. Your academic integrity lawyer knows how to scan and review these records as well as data from your personal devices. Your attorney will be able to find evidence such as your not being online at critical times or the absence of clicking on the work alleged to have been plagiarized. 

Hiring a Lawyer for Academic Integrity Cases

We are experts on academic integrity. We have the knowledge and the resources to order searches on your devices for supporting evidence and will help you make your best case to the hearing officers. For example, we can build a defense to show you did comprehensive research of multiple sources and did not plagiarize from any of them. Your lawyer can advise you in writing your appeal and by attending the hearing.

We can also help defend you from other forms of alleged cheating including by questioning the integrity or reliability of monitoring devices. We can help you slow down a “rush to judgment” that a school may otherwise be likely to make.

At Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP, We Can Help

If you believe your academic rights have been violated, let’s talk.

Our attorneys are experts in defending against a violation of your academic integrity and we have helped students across the country who have been accused of plagiarism and violations of academic integrity. Call us at 212-736-4500 or contact us as soon as a complaint is filed and we will be there aggressively protecting your rights. There is no fee for a private consultation.

Due to the unique nature of every individual situation, this blog does not constitute the giving of legal advice.