What happens when an elected official plagiarizes? It was an issue the St. Francis School Board had to address for one of its own Sept. 24 when it censured Boardmember Matt Rustad.
In the September issue of the district’s monthly publication, The Courier, Rustad submitted a column that was pulled nearly word for word from a blog.
After publishing Rustad’s opinion column, the district started getting calls and emails from teachers and residents of the district.
Most of the 500-word column was taken word for word from an August 2010 Iste Community Ning blog entry by Vernon Smith, technology director of Socorro Consolidated School in New Mexico.
This is a slap in the face for the students and the school district, said Boardmember Harry Grams.
When Rustad was running for the board he did so on the promise of a better future for students and more board responsibility, according to Grams.
Grams said he is not happy with just censuring.
Students learn by fourth grade the seriousness of plagiarism and its consequences, said Boardmember Janet Glover.
When she returned to college in 2008, she had to take a class on plagiarism and if she had been found guilty of plagiarism, she would have been kicked out of college with no refund, she said.
“I don’t think censure is enough,” Glover said.
“I made a mistake and I learn from my mistakes as everyone does,” said Rustad, who was in college when he was elected November 2011, in his only comments on the issue.
“This is a board of education and you stole someone else’s ideas,” said Boardmember Amy Kelly, who asked Rustad to resign.
“What message does this send to the (students).”
Boardmember Suzanne Erkel was the only board member who asked that the board be understanding and forgive Rustad.
“He deserves another chance,” she said.
By using someone else’s work in its entirety, it was Rustad’s plan to steal someone else’s work, said Boardmember David Anderson.
While he is willing to forgive, this is beyond that, he said.
The board voted unanimously, including Rustad, for the censure, which includes no penalties.
Tammy Sakry is at firstname.lastname@example.org