Writer’s Block: Censure is not enough

As a writer, it should surprise no one that I am against plagiarism.

Tammy SakryThe St. Francis School Board has been wrestling with how to deal with a school board member who plagiarized.

There appears to be only two options available to the board: censure or removal.

At first, the board censured him. This carries absolutely no penalties.

Since September, I have had to listen to certain school board members and other Matt Rustad supporters say he has been punished enough.

How can he be considered to be punished enough when censure carries no penalties? There has been no punishment.

As a kid, I knew what the penalty was for getting caught lying and stealing. And it was not my parents saying, “We don’t agree with what you did.”

I received a call from one of his supporters asking if I felt Rustad had been punished and if I thought removal was necessary.

I left no doubt about if I thought this was punishment was enough.

As for removal, I don’t think the school board should have been put in that position. Rustad should resign.

But not only for plagiarism.

A couple of months have passed since he was caught using a blog entry in nearly original form. Rustad has not once offered a public apology and he has been telling several versions of why he used the blog entry as his column in the district’s monthly newsletter.

He is an elected official in a school district – the place responsible for the education of future adults.

What is Rustad teaching these students? And what are his supporters saying to students by repeatedly saying he has been punished enough? Do they really hold Rustad to a lower standard than the students of the district?

First time offenders at University of Minnesota, Mankato, the college from where I graduated, receive one-year probation, have to attend an academic integrity workshop and have to write a letter of apology to the professor, according to the student handbook.

They also get a zero on the assignment or a reduced letter grade in the course.

Depending on the course, students in programs such as speech communication receive an F for any type of plagiarism, according to the handbook.

I am sure most colleges have similar penalties.

St. Francis High School students face similar penalties if they are caught plagiarizing.

Last I knew Rustad was a college student studying criminal justice.

I would think he would be familiar with what plagiarism is, despite his claims that he did not learn much about plagiarism as a home-schooled student.

To me that sounds like an excuse.

My college days are long behind me, but I recall plagiarism being covered during student orientation.

Perhaps he missed that day as he has missed most of his district committee meetings as well as all of the meetings for the school he is assigned to as a liaison.

Rustad has only given one school board member report since he was sworn in and that was on Oct. 22, the night the board discussed his potential removal.

As Rustad’s column, which newsletter staff trusted him to do properly, was published in The Courier, he should take out a full page ad and apologize for his “mistake.”

He needs to pay for this ad, which runs about $455, out of his own pocket – with no help from supporters or family members.

Rustad has been advised by his supporters to sue the district for the treatment he is getting. He is the one who did wrong and the board is trying to address that. And for Rustad’s supporters to threaten a lawsuit is wrong and shows they are not looking out for the students.

Rustad should take personal responsibility, no more excuses. Resign.

  • Matthew Rustad

    Below is the letter of apology that I wrote on September 10th, 2012. I brought it to the “discussion” after the regular board meeting.

    September 10, 2012

    I Matt Rustad, School Board Director of St Francis, Independent District 15 formally apologize for the mistake I made in the September issue of The Courier, when I was asked to write a column for The Courier I prepared all of my documents in word files. I hereby retract that article because of ignorance and a mistake. My sincerest apologies to any person or persons that I may have offended or affronted because of my error. It was a mistake made on my part, but I have learned from it and it will never happen again.

    Matthew Rustad,
    School Board Director,
    St Francis, ISD 15.

    The meeting was held with, Chairwomen Marsha Van Denburgh, myself, Supt. Ed Saxton, David Lindburg, and the editor of the Newspaper, Troy Ferguson. I also was informed recently that when I sent this letter of apology to the Courier, it was never published.

    It was also brought to my attention that Tammy Sakry of the Anoka Union, requested a copy of my apology letter from Supt. Ed Saxton, however Supt. Ed Saxton has not provided a copy of my apology letter to the Anoka Union as of today.

    My letter of apology was however published in an online Blog by an independent third party. Published at

  • william gardner

    From Ms. Sakry article

    Since September, I have had to listen to certain school board members and other Matt Rustad supporters say he has been punished enough.

    How can he be considered to be punished enough when censure carries no penalties? There has been no punishment.

    How about public humiliation, is that punishment?

  • Concerned Parent

    With this comment, I am addressing Matthew Rustad directly.

    Matt, regardless of your intentions you have failed us. You have made an inexcusable mistake. I have a daughter in Kindergarten in district 15, and my son too will soon be a student in the coming years. I neither trust nor respect you after what you have done, and I ask you to reflect on the situation and do the right thing – step down. I will be teaching my children to live a life of honor, dignity, and respect and I don’t want you – a person that has proven to be a poor role model – to be a representative in the education system that they attend.

    I genuinely wish and hope that you learn from your mistake and go on to lead a productive life. But I also believe that you need to step down and allow the district a chance to heal from this ugly episode.

    If you want the parents of schoolchildren in district 15 to have anything resembling a smidgen of respect for you, then the only course of action is for you to resign.

    Best of luck to you Matt (somewhere other than St. Francis).