How Should Students Who Turn in Someone Else’s Work as Their Own Be Punished?

Theft of intellectual property is not only unethical, but it is also illegal and immoral. In a society wrought with criminal actions and violence, it is vital to teach morality from the earliest possible point in life in order to instill a sense of honor in students before they are faced with a choice which may call into question their personal code of ethics.

By educating students early in their scholastic careers it is possible to provide them with a moral cornerstone. Students should face real consequences for the act of plagiarism depending on their age and intent. If a student knowingly plagiarizes an author’s work, the punishment should include such penalties as an incomplete grade assignment, suspension, and for multiple offenses, expulsion from the course of study or program.

At the elementary or high school level, plagiarism should first be addressed by educating the culprit about the issue. Perhaps, a young student failed to realize he or she had copied verbatim the text of an author; in this case, for a first offence, education would serve a greater purpose than punishment. If a student engages in the act of plagiarism more than once, punishment should include parent meetings and suspension.

If students are allowed to continue plagiarizing and in essence stealing from credited authors they can and will learn to take the easy way out of difficult or challenging situations. By letting such behavior go on, educators would do a disservice to these students as well as to the more conscientious ones. Plagiarizing students will be rewarded despite their wrongdoing and thus, positive reinforcement will be given for negative acts, which in turn could escalate beyond the classroom environment and into the real world.

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