Peninsula News

Dad criticized for suing school over cheating incident

Friday, April 27, 2012

There's no disputing it -- Peninsula attorney Jack Berghouse admits his son cheated by plagiarizing another student's work in his sophomore honors English class at Sequoia High School. However, Berghouse is not happy that he's getting bombarded with critical calls after he filed a lawsuit against the Sequoia Union High School District's superintendent and the school's principal.

"You're a dirt bag," said one caller, who left one of dozens of messages on the answering machine at Berghouse's Menlo Park law office.

"Too bad you can't be a better parent," said another.

"You're giving attorneys and parents a bad name," said another, who added, "School districts don't have money for lawsuits."

The son, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, was expelled from the honors English class. The lawsuit, Berghouse says, seeks to reinstate him, based on what he considers inapplicable language in the school's honesty pledge. The pledge refers to the Sequoia High School's IB program (International Baccalaureate), an honors program for juniors and seniors. Berghouse's son is enrolled in a different honors program for freshmen and sophomores.

The school superintendent won't discuss the lawsuit. He says it is the fourth case of cheating in an honors class this year.

"It involves a conference with the parents and the implementation of the consequences, but many ultimately see it as a learning experience for their children because these are good lessons for life," James Lionides said.

The punishment, the superintendent says, is permanent removal from the course on the first infraction. And there are no exceptions.

However, Berghouse worries the penalty will hurt his son's ability to get into a top college or university.

"The lesson that I'm teaching my child is, OK, if you make a mistake, you need to accept the penalty, but if the penalty seems to be way out of line for what it is that you've done, and then you should speak up," Berghouse said.

Thursday night, Berghouse's son took down his Facebook page after critical comments were posted.

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lawsuit, redwood city, peninsula news, david louie
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