Did A High School Principal Plagiarize A Graduation Speech?
The Roosevelt Union Free School District in Long Island, New York doesn’t mess around when it comes to plagiarism. According to its Code of Conduct, plagiarism is among the worst offenses, punishable by a suspension of up to five days:
That policy, however, was written for students. What happens if a principal is the person guilty of plagiarism?
According to Yahoo News, Roosevelt High School Principal Steven Strachan appeared to plagiarize a graduation message to seniors from a fellow principal in California. After the message was printed, Strachan apparently asked permission to “quote” from the California principal, but that principal refutes some of Strachan’s claims. It’s important to note that the message was far more than a simple quote, and it wasn’t attributed at all.
Even more embarrassingly, Strachan ended his message with an address to the wrong school and mentioned the wrong academic year, writing: “Congratulations to the Albany [California] High School Class of 2013.” For his part, Strachan blames a clerical error, telling Newsday:
“I sincerely apologize to the Roosevelt community and to the class of 2014 for the inadvertent clerical error causing mistakes to be printed in the 2014 yearbook. An unedited draft of my remarks was accidentally published rather than the final version, and I take full responsibility for the oversight.”
That excuse seems to be the new de facto response issued by plagiarizers; an Australian PR executive who appeared to plagiarize from my website earlier this year used the same excuse.
Two things make this story even worse.
1. Principal Strachan released the statement above through Zimmerman/Edelson, a PR firm, instead of issuing the statement personally.
As a result, he appears to be hiding behind a PR firm—and as of this writing, he appears not to have commented on this issue personally. The language in the statement is tepid and, to my eyes, unbelievable. A sincere apology doesn’t blame other people (unnamed people who caused the clerical error); use distancing passive language; and label the incident an “inadvertent…oversight.”
2. A member of the school district’s leadership team blamed the media for covering the story.
According to Newsday:
“Alfred T. Taylor, vice president of the Roosevelt school board, told the paper that the incident was an ‘unfortunate mistake that occurred’ and surprisingly said that ‘It’s unfortunate that somebody thought it was newsworthy.’”
It appears to me that Mr. Taylor should consult his own school district’s policy toward plagiarism and explain, specifically, why this principal should be dealt with less severely than a student who committed the same action.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
A grateful tip o’ the hat to reader Art Aiello; Steven Strachan photo via Yahoo News