Livingston alternative-school students speak out about cheating scandal

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Current and former students at Livingston High School Academy spoke with KHOU about their concerns over a cheating scandal that has rocked the school and will force many of them to prove they have mastered their courses. 

Officials with the Livingston school district said a recent audit found that a teacher prepared binders with questions and answers for exams and gave them to students in advance so that they could accelerate through their courses. The audit also found that some students had been admitted to the school who either didn’t meet the at-risk requirements for the alternative school or didn’t live in Livingston, the TV station reported.

Deborah Davis, lead instructor at the school and the teacher at the center of the controversy, told ABC 13, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and my students didn’t do anything wrong.” She described what she presented to students as notes with answers, not test questions.

Davis was fired by the school board on Feb. 3 for “cultivating academic dishonesty,” according to a press release from the school district. 

The press release noted that the school’s principal has resigned but didn’t list the administrator’s name. The school district’s staff directory has no listing for a principal at Livingston High School Academy.

Former student Hana Baumel told KHOU she thought she had graduated last year, but her transcripts have been frozen. She said that, to get their credits back, she and an estimated 80 students now have to prove they know the material covered in the courses where cheating has been alleged.

Baumel blames the teacher who gave her and others the exam materials in advance.

“I think it’s ridiculous, honestly,” she told KHOU. “I don’t think that it’s fair to all the students that were in the program, I don’t think any of it was our fault, and I don’t feel we have to pay for the mistakes the school made.

“I had four courses, which was technically five, and I got them all done in one day, which was like five hours,” Baumel said. “It didn’t make sense to me, [but] it’s what they told me I needed to do.” 

But in a letter explaining the violations and the review of the transcripts, Livingston Superintendent Brent Hawkins leveled the blame at school employees and students.

“I am personally dismayed at the actions of the employees culpable, and disappointed with the students who participated in the conduct,” he wrote.

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