Cheating: Teens Unspoken Rules

cheating_in_exam.jpgRecently, there was a cheating scandal at the prestigious Harvard-Westlake school in Los Angeles, CA. Six sophomores were expelled, many other students were suspended because two students stole a midterm off the teacher’s desk and sold it to other students.

I work with many Harvard-Westlake students and grew up in the LA private school community, yet I have found that this is not a problem unique to this group of schools. I was astounded in college to see that cheating is a common…almost accepted practice amongst many students, whether they came from private or public schools.

I contacted some current High School students from all over the country to write this article. I want to list some of the unspoken rules we discussed that dictate the cheating culture in schools today. It’s pretty sad, but mostly true, these are direct quotes of their ideas.

1) Anti-Cheaters are Bad Friends

“If someone asks you to cheat, and you say no, you are a teacher’s pet/bad friend/ stuck-up.”

“If they say no, they are trying to mess-up the curve for you.”

2) Bad Teachers Don’t Deserve Real Work

“If you have a bad teacher, then it is ok to plagarize off the internet.”

“If they cannot take the time to read it, why should I take the time to write it?”

“It’s us against the school. If we don’t help each other who will?”

3) Cheating Starts Early

“Cheating starts, when we start to get homework–as early as 2nd grade.”

4) Who Know When You Will Need Help?

“You have to say yes to cheaters, because you never know when you might need their help.”

5) Spoilers are Outcasts

“You never tell on a cheater”

6) I Cheat because…

“I cheat because I am bored”

“I cheat because this homework/test/essay is an unfair assignment and busywork anyway, so why should I spend time doing it.”

“I cheat because I am lazy.”

“There is no way I would be able to get all of this work done, even if I studied as hard as I could, I would still do bad, so I might as well cheat.”

“I cheat because everyone does, and it is easier to say yes, than to say no”

7) Parent’s Pressure Causes Cheating

“Parents constantly pressure us to do well, so they should be happy that we are ‘trying our hardest’ to get good grades.”

8) I also noticed that there seems to be different levels of cheating, we discussed the following:

One-Time Cheaters: Will only do it in ‘an extreme situation’ where it is cheating or failing (sick, forgot a paper/test/homework was assigned, did the wrong assignment etc) or have only done it once and regretted it.

Reciprocal Cheaters: ” If you do this assignment/review sheet/project, I’ll do the next assignment/review sheet/project.” ‘School work and studying is a team job and it is not really cheating–it is just more efficient.’

‘I-am-not-a-cheater’ Cheaters: “I feel so bad, but I forgot my book/my cat died/ I was sick, can I just borrow your math homework this one time.”…but it happens all the time.

Secret Cheaters: They do not cheat with anyone else, just slipping in extra notes, hiding flashcards in their desk and not telling a soul that it is the reason they are on the honor roll.

Entitled Cheaters: “I cheat because my parents pressure me, school is unfair and I hate my teacher. Therefore my cheating is an act of rebellion and f*** you.”

Pro Cheaters: ‘Cheating is a sport, I enjoy to see how far I can go, how much money I can make from selling a test, and how little I have to study before getting caught…or graduating cum laude.’

Social Cheaters: ‘I cheat, and allow others to cheat off of me because it gets me friends and makes me seem cool.’

I do not mean to frighten you, and there are many many kids who do not cheat in school. But the most telling quote of this article for me, is the “I cheat because it is easier to say yes than no.”

I am now speaking to a few student groups about this issue and we go over these ‘cheater roles.’ Students actually laugh because their is a lot of truth in them and the rules are real. I try to tell them, as you should with your child, that most parents would rather their kids fail than cheat. There are also major consequences to cheating–if you get caught (which you probably will) it will ruin your chances of getting into college or getting into a good job because it is a true reflection of character.

Dream big, work hard and you will get there,


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4 Responses to “Cheating: Teens Unspoken Rules”

  1. taylor
    October 24, 2008 at 4:59 am #


  2. Ca
    July 28, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    I went to Harvard Westlake and never cheated in my life. Moreover, i was in a group of friends who were not considered teachers pets, if anything we were the ones who would have been cheating in theory, and I don’t even know anyone from that group who ever cheated once. Just an FYI.


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