A Closer Look at Novato High’s Cheating Issue


Sophia Steddin

A survey from the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics stated that 59 percent of high school students have admitted to cheating on a test. This reveals that many students in high school turn to cheating, perhaps due to a lack of motivation or understanding of the curriculum. Yes, this is happening at Novato High.

Cheating is defined as acting dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination. People may turn to cheating, specifically in a school setting, when they don’t feel prepared to perform well independently. 

Novato High Assistant Principal Greg Fister described the disciplinary process that takes place in the event that a student is caught cheating. 

“The first time a student is caught for cheating or plagiarism, they’re supposed to have a teacher contact the student and maybe a parent. There’s an academic integrity contract that is signed, it’s in our handbook as well,” Fister said. “The second time it occurs, they can receive a zero on the assignment and not be able to make it up, and they could receive a withdrawal from the course. If for some reason it happened a third time, they would automatically be dropped from the course but they may have a parent meeting with the teacher and an administrator.” 

After interviewing various random students, many examples of cheating strategies and techniques were described. 

“I cheat all the time. I can’t even lie, I do,” said a student, who wished to remain anonymous. “It helps me get a better grade and I don’t know the curriculum half the time. I want to blame this on my teachers, but at the same time, I’m also doing something wrong as well.”

Another anonymous student said teachers can’t always detect it.

“A lot of people cheat at this school because the teachers don’t really pay attention to it. In Spanish a couple of years ago, I would always put the answers on the lock screen of my phone and just look at it and then write the answers on my test and I’ve cheated on my finals before,” the student said.

Another anonymous student spoke about some of the pressure they feel when asked to assist other students in cheating. This is not an uncommon situation, on both ends, however both students, even the one not seeking the answers can receive punishment for cheating. 

“I notice people look over at my paper when I’m taking a test. It’s just going to bite them in the a** eventually, so it’s not a big deal. People definitely ask me for assignments and it’s hard to say no because often times they can be your friends or people that you don’t necessarily want to piss off.”

One student also described cheating as commonplace at Novato High.

“I think cheating at Novato High is very common and normalized,” the student said. “For my history final, I wasn’t prepared. So, I put my phone between my legs, typed the questions into Google and I aced the test,” the student explained, on the condition of anonymity.

A different student willing to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity explained how they cheat.

“I used to print out little maps of whatever countries we were doing our geography tests on and I would look at the map and write down my answers and it was like a cheat sheet,” they said.

Many students claim they see cheating so frequently that they have been desensitized to it. It’s like anything else you see continually; it doesn’t stand out enough to make you really contemplate that what you’re seeing is wrong. That could be the most detrimental aspect of the systemic cheating issue. 

People don’t focus enough on the consequences of cheating in regard to learning and even self-esteem. When one cheats, they often don’t feel capable and by cheating they are enabling themselves and empowering this negative feeling. Cheating is dangerous because it reinforces immoral ways of obtaining what you want.  

While it may seem easy to cheat in high school, this is likely to change in college. Getting caught cheating in college can lead to expulsion from the university. 

Novato High senior Nisim Peretz shared his beliefs about cheating. 

“I’ve never cheated on a test because I don’t see a point. I think it’s important to learn and cheating isn’t a way to learn,” Peretz said. 

NHS English teacher Michael Taber explained his perspective as a teacher on cheating. 

“Students absolutely cheat. Hopefully teachers can come up with assessments that students are not encouraged to cheat on or they feel confident enough in their abilities to perform well on,” Taber said. “If I come up with engaging topics, it’s going to remove some of the incentive to cheat. If there are no engaging topics and the teacher has not presented the material well enough, then the students only option is to cheat.” 

To decrease cheating, it is important for students to feel empowered when it comes to their learning. A key part of this is that students want to feel as if they are learning material that they’re interested in and will apply to life. Some students feel as if they are being tested on material they have not learned, and this can make them feel as if they are justified in cheating. 

It could be best to create a new educational system, where students are inspired to challenge themselves more.