Cheating the system

Mr. O’Rourke gives an insight into upholding the honor code.


Teachers occasionally have to deal with cheating students; it’s an unfortunate reality of the job. Fortunately, Mr. O’Rourke has never caught someone cheating in his class before (Photo by Lucas Aue).

Lucas Aue, Reporter

Cheating happens at every school–tests, quizzes, and homework create an inevitable obstacle that some students attempt to circumvent by cheating. Math teacher Mr. O’Rourke discusses how cheating can occur, what happens if a student is caught cheating, and what the repercussions are for students discovered.

Saxon Scope: Have any students cheated in your class?                                       

Mr. O’Rourke: Not that I’m aware of. I’ve never had to honor-code anyone. But, I’m pretty on top of it when kids are taking tests. So I try to put them in an environment where they’re not tempted to do that. So, no.  

Saxon Scope: Do you know of any other classes where students cheated?

Mr. O’Rourke: Well I know that cheating can be a problem sometimes, right […] so it does happen. 

Saxon Scope: In the school even?     

Mr. O’Rourke: It does happen in the school. So, it does happen in other classes. It’s not a good thing, but it’s a reality. And so, all we can really do, as teachers is to encourage them to not do that, and then maybe get to the root of why kids are deciding to cheat. Usually there’s some underlined reason as to why, so that’s all we can do.

Saxon Scope: What happens to people who cheat?

Mr. O’Rourke: Well, teachers have to submit an honor code violation to the honor council, and then the honor council decides if they are guilty or not. They gather facts; they try to figure out what happened and then they make a decision.     

Saxon Scope: And if they are [guilty]? 

Mr. O’Rourke: And if they’re found guilty? Then there’s certain punishments that happen; so they’ll probably get a zero on the assessment […] other things happen, it’s all case-specific.

Saxon Scope: Do they have to redo [the assessment]?

Mr. O’Rourke: Depends on the circumstance. I think it’s probably up to the teacher. If it’s a test, they can probably re-take it, and the max they can get is an 80% […] that’s Fairfax county policy.

Saxon Scope: How do people get caught cheating?

Mr. O’Rourke: So, there’s lots of ways people can get caught cheating. You know, sometimes when we grade. So there’s a couple of ways you can get caught, sometimes teachers figure out whether we’re grading things right, maybe they have the answers to the other version on their quiz or test- you know how there’s sometimes simple versions of the quiz or test? Sometimes they write down the answers to the other version. Then we can figure it out that way. Sometimes we can see if they’re looking at someone else’s paper.

Saxon Scope: Are there ways students cheat that teachers can’t see?

Mr. O’Rourke: I’m sure. You guys have creative about how you go about doing things. So I’m sure there’s some things we’re not aware of yet, but they try to stay on top of it. They also encourage kids not to do it, because they’re only hurting themselves.

Saxon Scope: How can we stop people from cheating?

Mr. O’Rourke: Put kids in an environment where they’re not tempted to do it. Encourage them to, you know, always put their best work forward. Sometimes it’s better to not get a not so great grade, that can be used as a learning experience to help you in the future. I think a lot stems from the fear of failure, you know, a lot of us are scared to be wrong, or don’t want to be wrong. A lot of times that’s where the best of learning happens, like when we’re wrong, we can learn from those mistakes, so it’s kind of a culture change. 

Saxon Scope: […] f they’re trying to have their answers written down-if they looked up the answers online, as a way of “cheating”, and they might try to write down the answers. Does that really count as cheating? 

Mr. O’Rourke: Of course it does […] Anything that you have with you that we didn’t explicitly say you could have– that’s an honor code violation. It’s all about honoring that code.

Some words and phrases have been changed for clarity.