By Tanner Smith
I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal.
These three short phrases compose the Honor Code of North Cross School. They are 12 simple words loaded with huge meaning. There was a breach in the code during the ninth grade physics exam. While taking the exam, which was on the iPad, nine students accessed notes or websites to help them on the test. While the intention for them was to boost their grade, their grades instead went in the opposite direction once their actions were discovered. Not only did they each receive a zero for their exams, they also incurred the judgment of 11 of their peers on the Honor Council. Jennifer Landry, Honor Council chair, thinks that some students have a limited understanding of the code, especially as it applies to iPads.
“I think there is a problem with how students don’t understand how it can be different when they are taking a test on the iPad,” she said. “I asked a student if they thought it was okay if they were taking a test on paper to then go and look up the stuff on the iPad or on a computer, they looked at me like I was crazy. I think they see an iPad in front of them and assume they have access to the Internet.”
Daniel Habib (’18) thinks that while the students were wrong to cheat, the physics test was set up to fail.
“I think that there were more opportunities for someone to cheat than should have been allowed,” he said.
Headmaster Dr. Christian J. Proctor is a huge proponent of trusting students to follow the Honor Code. In fact, he thinks that the school should get to the point where students don’t need any supervision for exams.
“We should be able to send the exams home with students,” he said “and have them take the exams on their own time like Washington & Lee students do for their exams.”
Meghan McDonnell (’15), who is a member of the Honor Council, has internal motivation to be honorable along with the school’s Honor Code.
“I want to get into college and I want to do that myself,” she said. “I don’t want any other outside factors; it has to be me.”
The school hopes to groom other students with this mentality, which is the purpose of the Honor Council. Landry tries to let the students dominate the conversations.
“In my role, I try to speak as little as possible,” she said. “I am really only there to take notes and to run the meeting. The faculty here does meet after school if there has been an honor offense, but they are not allowed to change the decision of the Honor Council in determining whether an honor offense has occurred.”
While the students determine whether an honor offense has occurred, Proctor has the final say on punishment. Proctor takes a number of factors into consideration when making a decision, but his core belief is very simple.
“If you cheat, you cheat,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are copying a homework assignment or cheating on a major exam. The punishment can be different, but to me I am not punishing one more lightly than the other, I am punishing the situation differently.
“They are both still cheating, but I will vary the punishment both by situation, age and if you had done it before. If you had done it once before and now you are a second time loser it is a very serious punishment at that point because you didn’t learn the first time. In life sometimes you make a mistake but once you start making several mistakes then the punishment can get bad in a hurry.”
McDonnell agrees that a variety of factors need to be weighed, but thinks that age should not be a determining factor.
“I think there are scales of different offenses that need to be treated differently,” she said. “Everyone makes mistakes, but I think anyone can turn away from temptation no matter how old they are.”