R-JENERATION: Students risk serious punishment for cheating

A Coronado High School student walked into his first-period classroom on a brisk Friday morning. With each step, the adhesive holding the cheat sheet to his Nike Air Force Ones loosened.

The extent of his test preparation had been putting together the cheat sheet and sticking it to the sole of his shoe. All hope of passing hinged on his notes staying put.

The cheat sheet held up. His plan didn't.

Nearly 30 minutes later, he was in the dean's office, caught trying to sneak answers from the notes placed so carefully on his Nikes.

"When I walked into class, I was literally walking on the study guide," the Coronado freshman said. "I typed up the information I needed and cut it to fit onto the bottom of my shoe. I was halfway through the test, awkwardly looking at my shoes, when my teacher caught on. I ended up flunking the test and had to explain the whole ordeal to my parents and the dean.

"To say the least, it was not worth it."

Many teens have been in the same position: It is 7:45 in the morning and a test is approaching. The butterflies in your stomach flutter violently as it dawns on you - you are not ready for the test that awaits. You're not even close to being ready.

The dilemma is universal to all students: Risk being caught cheating or accept the fate of an awful test score?

"I figure that if I'm already not ready for the test, I might as well take the risk," a Coronado senior said.

Although cheating in school is nothing new, the methods of doing so are becoming more and more cutting-edge. As teachers become more vigilant against cheating, cheaters scheme up ways to try to stay a step ahead of them.

"I used to be able to use the 'vocabulary-sheet-in-front-of-the-binder' trick, but teachers caught on, so I had to develop new methods," said a Foothill High School junior.

As it turns out, teachers have seen nearly every trick in the book.

"Sometimes it's obvious, students don't just look down at their crotches and then back up to their tests," Coronado English teacher Nancy Thompson said.

Whether the technique is basic or state-of-the-art, students are more than willing to take the risk.

"One time, I printed part of my study guide onto a small piece of paper and slid it behind my water bottle label," a Liberty High School senior said. "It was a bit of a hassle but well worth it because I aced the test."

Cheating in high school is not limited to gender, race or grade-point average.

In every classroom on test day, there probably will be that one student following the teacher inconspicuously with his eyes to wait for the perfect moment to strike. Teachers know exactly why their students are suddenly so curious as to their location in the classroom - and they've learned to combat it.

A teacher walking around each desk or glaring over the room from a vantage point proves to be a cheater's worst enemy.

If students are aware that teachers know their tricks, why even bother continuing to cheat?

"I try to keep cheating to a minimum," a Spring Valley High School junior said. "I do it out of necessity. Sure, I know I'd get a worse grade if I got caught than if I didn't cheat in the first place, but once I look at the test and know I'm out of luck, I just say screw it."

Students caught cheating face serious punishments.

"Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously at our school," said Paul Fagone, assistant principal at Coronado. "If a student chooses to cheat on a test or homework rather than put in the work themselves, the resulting punishment is a zero percent on the assignment, test or quiz with a first offense; the second offense (results) in a 10 percent loss to a quarter grade."

While all teachers are instructed on the punishments for cheating, several teachers choose to take their own approach.

"To be honest, I take cheating with a pinch of salt," said Coronado social studies teacher Alex Yi. "I was a high school student not too many years ago. I know the pressure they're under. While some teachers may hold cheating to high punishment, I prefer to talk about more in-depth study methods with my students, rather than throw the book at them.

"I see cheating as a mistake, and students tend to learn from their mistakes easier if you treat them with proper respect."