Fulton school board votes to strengthen cheating policy

Thinking about snapping a cell phone photo of a test and sending it to a classmate?

Not a good idea, say Fulton school officials.

The Fulton County school board voted Thursday night to update and expand its academic integrity policy. School officials want to make it clear to students that using electronic devices to copy test answers or copying work from the Internet will land them in hot water.

School officials said the policy was created decades before students were surfing the Web and taking photos with smart phones.

“It was 1980 when it was first created and it hasn’t been revisited since,” said Martha Greenway, deputy superintendent for organizational advancement.

Officials at some schools in Fulton have reported instances of students using technology to cheat, but the problem isn't widespread.  The incidents were considered cheating, but the policy did specifically address them.

“We have had issues with students taking pictures with a phone of a test and emailing it to a student in a later class and of students not being aware that copying verbatim work from an Internet source is just as problematic as copying work from a printed source,” Greenway said.

Student use of cell phones during school hours is already forbidden.

The revised cheating policy prohibits students from using the Web or cell phones to gain an unfair advantage in their school work. It also defines cheating as “fabricating data, signatures or resources, providing or receiving test questions in advance without permission and working collaboratively with other students when individual work is expected.”

Fulton parent Theo Jordan of Fairburn said the policy update is needed.

Kids who cheat "may get by, but face a bump down the road later," he said. "It's good to have something so everyone will be on the same page."

Students cannot cheat on contest entries sent outside the district in work that represents Fulton County Schools, according to the updated policy.

"If a student was presenting something for a science fair or a state competition, we would expect that the work would live up to the same academic integrity guidelines as if they were presenting it to a teacher for a grade," Greenway said.

Students caught cheating in Fulton can face disciplinary action including a note in their file or a lower grade.

The new policy will be included in the student handbook for the 2012-13 school year.