Settling Lively Lawsuit is a Bad Idea

  • November 19, 2019

On September 11, the parents of four Korean American students filed a lawsuit against the district alleging that the students were unfairly discriminated against after being caught cheating in Mr. Lively’s AP Euro class in October of last year. The lawsuit is absurd and distressing. But we believe that it may ultimately be a good thing for the LCHS community.

The reactions that we have seen amongst students have been strongly in support of Mr. Lively and have drawn more criticism towards those who cheat. The case has forced us to examine the school’s toxic culture around cheating and question how the influence of parents can be a barrier to academic honesty. 

Thus far, students, teachers, and parents are all but unanimous in their support of Mr. Lively and their belief that this racism claim is far from the truth. 

As students were informed of the circumstances surrounding the case, many took to wearing AP Euro t-shirts to show their support of Mr. Lively. “I personally believe that the lawsuit is completely absurd,” said one Korean American student who wishes to remain anonymous. “I feel that Mr Lively puts effort into providing everyone with equal opportunities and treatment.”

The consensus also seems to be that the disciplinary actions taken by the district were completely fair and deserved. 

“He has always stressed his academic dishonesty policy and has gone over the consequences many times,” said another Korean-American student. “Our syllabus went over these guidelines and the consequences, and we have all signed them.”

Even on the often teacher-critical parent Facebook page, a parent posted the article only to receive over a hundred comments, as of 8am Friday. Every single comment was in support of Mr. Lively, the punishments given for cheating, and LCUSD for standing up to the parents who filed the lawsuit. Many parents even went above and beyond to email Lively with consolations and assurance of their support, as well as screenshots showing that this sentiment was well-shared. Janet Cho, a Korean-American parent, said she spoke to “a group of about 14 other KA parents and I only received positive comments about the experiences their kids had with him in class.”

This is one of the first times that we have been able to look at a school situation regarding cheating and the community response and feel proud to go to this school. LCHS has been plagued with cheating issues for years. We have personally heard reports from teachers that the past administration changed grades from what teachers had submitted on report cards in order to placate parents who had complained about cheating punishments. Now, it appears that Mr. Cartnal is willing to finally stand up to parents where administration had previously bent under the pressure. 

But the lawsuit has proven that all is not well. There are countless paths that powerful parents can take to shield their children from their mistakes, and there is an established trend of students looking to circumvent bad grades by claiming bias.

To the LC parent desperate for their cheating child to get into Ivy Leagues, lawsuits are the logical next step.

If LCUSD takes this lawsuit to court, we predict that they will win. This would not only leave the defeated family with a Tesla’s worth of legal fees, but would also send the message to any other family looking to extort LCHS into giving their student a better grade that legal action is not a wise option.

Unfortunately, this is not what we predict is going to happen. The district has a track record of settling lawsuits out of court, with a recent example being Mr. McFeat’s departure, and the same is likely to happen here. The reason why LCUSD would settle is purely financial, as taking this to trial could entail hefty legal fees, while a settlement might cost the district far less.

However, this decision does not take into account the financial cost of subsequent lawsuits that are likely to come from setting this kind of precedent. 

And if the district settles with the plaintiff, the detrimental consequences would extend far beyond the monetary. The details of the settlement agreement would never see the light of day. It would inherently benefit the family, either financially or through the changing of grades, a clear loss for everything that Mr. Cartnal has tried to stand up to and what the community claims to support. Fear of legal backlash will make teachers even more afraid to report cheating and the administration even more loath to discipline those who have been reported. We would be taking steps back from everything that LCUSD has worked towards.

We all want to feel like our school environment is academically honest. To accomplish that, we need to stand up for our values as a district and as a student body by not allowing parents to intimidate those who try to hold students accountable for their actions.

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