Archive for Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Parents seek to remove Piper school board members

July 3, 2002

A parent group unhappy with the way the Piper School Board handled an incident involving student plagiarism officially filed a petition with the Wyandotte County Election Commission Monday, July 1, seeking removal of three board members.

The election commission is reviewing the petition and it could be several days before the petition is validated.

If the petition is validated, board president Chris McCord and board members James Swanson and Greg Netzer will be placed on a November ballot for recall.

"We've done all we can do. It's up to the election commission and the community now," said Rebecca Jacobs, a Piper parent who helped circulate the petition.

According to Kansas law, only half the board minus one can be recalled. The Piper School Board has seven members so three can be recalled if the petition is valid.

The group needed 681 signatures per board member, or 16 percent of the registered voters, for the recall petition to proceed.

Jacobs said the parent group got, on average, 840 signatures per board member.

"I think 840 was the least number," she said. "It was very rewarding to get it done."

"We've had wonderful support from the community," Jacobs added.

The parent group should know from the election commission this week whether the petition is valid, Jacobs said.

"Hopefully, by Friday we'll have our answer," Jacobs said. "We know we have the needed number but we won't know for sure until the election commission says."

The parent group decided to begin the recall drive because they were unhappy with how board members handled a plagiarism scandal that began last fall.

That's when Piper High School biology teacher Christine Pelton gave 28 sophomore students failing grades for allegedly plagiarizing an assignment worth 50 percent of their overall grade.

The Piper School Board overturned the grading decision and lowered the assignment's value allowing students to pass the course.

Pelton resigned following the school board's action and the former teacher's plight has been at the center of a national debate regarding academic dishonesty.

The recall petition is not the first time someone has expressed displeasure with the Piper School Board's handling of the incident.

In February, Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic filed a civil complaint against each of the seven board members for violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act.

Tomasic said the board members went into executive session without giving sufficient statement as to why the closed-door session was needed.

The school board made a decision about the plagiarism issue during that meeting.

Later, school board members said the violation was unintentional and apologized not only for the violation but also how the plagiarism situation was handled.

A settlement agreement was reached and a stipulation to the agreement was that board members develop an age-appropriate policy toward plagiarism.

The school board formed a committee of parents, teachers, students and college professors to form the policy.

The plagiarism policy was finalized in June and calls for the teacher to be the one who determines whether a student plagiarized but also for the student to have an option for appeal.

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