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66 Students Face Suspension in Stuyvesant High School Cheating Scandal

By Julie Shapiro | September 7, 2012 6:47pm
Stuyvesant High School in Battery Park City.
Stuyvesant High School in Battery Park City.
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Flickr/Art Poskanzer

BATTERY PARK CITY — Sixty-six students at the elite Stuyvesant High School are facing suspension after they were caught cheating on Regents tests last spring, officials said Friday.

The Department of Education had previously suspended just six of the 71 students who were accused of sharing test questions and answers on the high-stakes state tests at the Battery Park City school, but after investigating further over the summer, the DOE determined that more students ought to be suspended, officials said.

“As we said at the start of this investigation, we have zero tolerance for cheating or academic dishonesty of any kind, and the students involved in this incident will now face disciplinary action," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement Friday.

Interim Stuyvesant Principal Jie Zhang, who took over after longtime Principal Stanley Teitel stepped down last month, sent an email to dozens of parents Friday warning that their children could be suspended for up to five school days.

"There are a large number of students involved and the school is in the process of scheduling and conducting suspension conferences," Zhang wrote.

Zhang is also cracking down on cellphones, which are not allowed in schools but are ubiquitous at Stuyvesant and have been used in cheating there. School staff confiscated 17 phones on the first two days of school and is storing them at the assistant principal's office, where a parent must come retrieve them, the DOE said.

All students and their parents must also sign an Academic Honesty Policy that students will bring home with them on Monday, and the school's administration will work with students to draft an honor code, Zhang said.

"As a community we must address the issues of student discipline and academic integrity directly: We will not tolerate any acts of academic dishonesty," Zhang wrote in a letter to the school community on Friday. "Such acts undermine the reputation of this school and hurt our students individually and collectively."

Officials uncovered the cheating ring last June after catching junior Nayeem Ahsan allegedly photographing his Spanish Regents exam and confiscating his phone. Administrators examining the phone found text messages to dozens of other students with information about Spanish, English and physics Regents exams, the DOE said.

Investigators also found a separate instance of a Stuyvesant student who cheated on the physics Regent by passing notes. Both that student and Ahsan were suspended, along with four others.

Stuyvesant's student newspaper has chronicled widespread cheating at the school over the past several years, including one poll that found most students had copied homework and shared information about tests.