Elementary School Geography Bee Cheating Scandal Leads to Litigation

Jury finds school defendants liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress on father, in part because they publicly accused his children (apparently wrongly) of cheating, but awards him no damages.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From Judge Matthew F. Kennelly's decision Monday in A.J. v. Butler Ill. School Dist. #53 (N.D. Ill.):

Rahul Julka and Komal Julka are the parents of two children who, at the relevant time, were elementary school students in Butler School District 53. The two children, A.J. and R.J, were registered to participate in the 2016 National Geographic Bee (GeoBee) hosted by the district. Before the GeoBee was held, it was discovered that Komal had acquired the actual contest questions. This led to the withdrawal of A.J. and R.J. from the GeoBee as well as actions by the District and administrators that led the Julkas to file the present lawsuit….

After a series of pretrial rulings that resulted in the dismissal of some of [plaintiffs'] claims, … [a] jury found for Rahul on his IIED [intentional infliction of emotional distress] claim against the school board and its president but awarded him no damages….

In 2016, R.J. and A.J. were both elementary school students in Butler School District 53 and registered to compete in the 2016 GeoBee, an academic competition administered each year by the school district. In January 2016, a few days before the start of the competition, Kelly Voliva, the elementary school principal, Heidi Wennstrom, the district's superintendent, and Alan Hanzlik, the school board president, were informed that Komal had obtained the official contest questions for the upcoming GeoBee. Wennstrom, in consultation with Hanzlik, investigated this allegation. She concluded that it was true and sanctioned the Julkas.

Specifically, on February 8, 2016, Wennstrom sent a letter addressed to Rahul and Komal detailing the findings of her investigation and explaining the sanctions she was imposing. She found that the Julkas had improperly acquired the contest questions and shared them with the Jain family, who also had a child in the school district who was registered to compete in the 2016 GeoBee.

Wennstrom's letter to Rahul and Komal stated that "[t]he academic dishonesty and cheating which you and your children engaged [sic] put all of the District students participating in the contest and the District at risk of being banned from current and future National Geographic Bee contests." Wennstrom prohibited A.J. and R.J. from participating in any Butler School District 53 academic competitions and prohibited the parents from volunteering in any school contests or competitions. Wennstrom testified at trial that she sent a similar letter to the Jains, describing her findings and imposing sanctions. Like the Julka children, the Jain child was prohibited from participating in academic competitions in the district.

That same day, Wennstrom mailed a letter to other families in the school district reporting on her investigation and findings. This letter did not mention the Julkas by name. Wennstrom stated that she had imposed restrictions on those who were involved in the academic dishonesty related to the GeoBee competition, but she did not describe the sanctions.

Rahul and Komal filed a grievance with the school board, challenging Wennstrom's findings and sanctions. The board hired an attorney from the Robbins Schwartz law firm to investigate the grievance. At the conclusion of her investigation, the attorney issued a report recommending that the school board affirm only Wennstrom's findings of misconduct by Rahul and Komal but not her findings regarding cheating by the Julka children. The attorney also recommended affirming the sanctions Wennstrom had imposed. The school board adopted the attorney's recommendations and affirmed Wennstrom's findings of misconduct by the Julka parents and the sanctions imposed upon the family.

In April 2016, Hanzlik wrote to Rahul and Komal, reporting on the grievance investigation, the Robbins Schwartz attorney's findings and recommendations, and the school board's decision. He also noted that "[i]n light of an error" in Wennstrom's February letter, the school board had directed that her letter be revised to delete the reference to academic dishonesty and cheating by the Julka children….

Hanzlik and the school board have moved for judgment as a matter of law on Rahul's IIED claim against them…. Under Illinois law, an IIED claim has three elements: (1) extreme and outrageous conduct by the defendant; (2) intent by the defendant to inflict severe emotional distress or knowledge of "at least a high probability" that conduct would cause severe distress; and (3) severe emotional distress experienced by the plaintiff. The defendants argue that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the evidence was not legally sufficient to establish any of these three elements.

The first element, extreme and outrageous conduct, requires that the defendant's actions "go beyond all bounds of decency and be considered intolerable in a civilized society." Whether conduct is extreme and outrageous is "based on the facts of the particular case." A defendant's conduct may be deemed outrageous if it is directed to an individual that the defendant knows is particularly susceptible to emotional distress. "The extreme and outrageous nature of the conduct may arise from the defendant's abuse of some position that gives him authority over the plaintiff or the power to affect the plaintiff's interests."

As the Court explained in its decision denying the defendants' motion for summary judgment on the IIED claim, a jury could reasonably conclude that the actions of Hanzlik and the school board constituted extreme and outrageous conduct. These two defendants are school authorities—the "types of individuals who in exercising their authority can become liable for extreme abuses of their positions."

The sanctions they imposed and their public accusations of cheating were directed, in part, to the Julka children, who Hanzlik and the board knew had heightened susceptibility to emotional distress due to their young age. Additionally, Hanzlik had threatened to sue the Julkas to recover $100,000 in litigation expenses. This evidence was legally sufficient to support the jury's finding that the conduct of Hanzlik and the school board was extreme and outrageous.

Hanzlik and the school board argue, however, that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that their conduct specifically was extreme and outrageous. They argue that they were not the defendants who imposed the sanctions on the Julkas. That contention is contrary to the evidence. After the Julkas filed the grievance challenging Wennstrom's sanctions, Hanzlik and the board affirmed them.

As for the public statements about the Julkas and Hanzlik's letter threatening litigation, the defendants point to evidence—primarily Hanzlik's testimony—suggesting that these actions were not extreme and outrageous. The defendants' reliance on this evidence is unavailing, because in ruling on their renewed Rule 50 motion, the Court must disregard all evidence favorable to the defendants, refrain from weighing the evidence, and give Rahul the benefit of every reasonable inference. As previously discussed, the jury reasonably concluded that the actions by Hanzlik and the school board directed to Rahul constituted extreme and outrageous conduct.

The defendants argue that even if their conduct was extreme and outrageous, the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury's finding that Rahul experienced severe emotional distress. To establish this element of an IIED claim, the plaintiff must show that his distress was so severe that "no reasonable man could be expected to endure it." Rahul testified at trial that the defendants' actions left him feeling shocked and humiliated. Additionally, the stress and behavioral changes he observed in R.J. and A.J. in the months following the filing of the grievance made Rahul feel hurt, disappointed, and frustrated.

The defendants first argue that Rahul's distress was not sufficiently severe because he failed to provide any evidence that he sought medical treatment. This argument lacks merit. "[N]either physical injury nor the need for medical treatment is a necessary prerequisite to establishing severe emotional distress." …

Finally, Hanzlik and the school board argue that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury's finding that they had the requisite intent for an IIED claim. Illinois courts have "generally found this element to be satisfied either when a defendant's actions, by their very nature, were likely to cause severe distress or when the defendant knew that a plaintiff was particularly susceptible to such distress and that, because of this susceptibility, the defendant's actions were likely to cause it to occur." Some of the defendants' conduct—public accusations of cheating and prohibition from participating in any academic competition in the school district—was directed to Rahul's children, A.J. and R.J., who had heightened susceptibility to distress due to their age.

Though the claim at issue was brought by Rahul, any reasonable person in the defendants' position would understand that an attack on one's children by a person in a position of authority—particularly a public accusation of cheating—would be highly likely to cause the children's parents severe distress. With this in mind, the jury could have reasonably concluded that Hanzlik and the school board, who knew that their sanctions and public statements targeted Rahul's minor children, acted with knowledge of "at least a high probability" that their conduct would cause distress….

The court rejected plaintiffs' motion for a new trial (which was based chiefly on procedural arguments), so the plaintiffs are stuck with their $0 recovery.

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  1. Not mentioned is HOW “Komal had obtained the official contest questions for the upcoming GeoBee” — something I consider quite relevant here.

    Notwithstanding that, phase two will inevitably become an effort to remove the Superintendent via changes in the school board membership. There likely will be cries of racism thrown in, maybe justified, maybe not — just look at the spelling of the names and you’ll see the basis.

    But I want to know how Komal got the questions — that’s the real guilt here.

    1. Let me tell you a story from 1992 or so, when I was in 7th grade.

      I was going to a new school. This school had the bee, unlike my previous school. I won the class bee and made it to the all-school finals. In the finals, I answered question after question correctly. But something didn’t quite seem right. Then, when we were down to just two people, the teachers read a question to my opponent – and I realized. I knew the answer, but I had no business knowing it.

      My mother was a middle school social studies teacher in another school. She’d always let me read the questions, as I enjoyed such things. She might have even read them to me. It never mattered before, because my old school had never participated.

      So now my opponent gets the (rather difficult) question wrong, and I have about five seconds to decide: answer the question and win by cheating, or admit that I had prior knowledge. (I suppose I also could have just thrown the question – I honestly knew most of those other answers anyway – but that didn’t occur to me at the time.)

      I answered the question correctly and won. I then took the written test (which I had not seen) and advanced to the state bee, where I didn’t do much. I apologized to the other student two years later, who took it in stride.

  2. Like Dr. Ed, I also want to know how Komal got the questions. The district and the GeoBee should want to know that as well. If the Julkas could get them, other parents likely also did.

    1. The _Boston Globe_ once sent portions of a Sunday edition to newstands wrapped in scrap paper that just happened to be a printout of subscriber’s names & credit card numbers. Yes….

      “Bleep” sometimes happens — and I’m thinking GeoBee might have some gross negligence here and doesn’t want anyone to know about it.

  3. …So DID they actually get the questions or not? If they did, then I don’t see anything wrong with what the District did. If they didn’t AND the District had no reasonable belief that they did, then maybe, but it still seems pretty mild for IIED.

    1. Details are here – https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-oak-brook-geography-bee-lawsuit-verdict-20191221-vuzjfs7yhzb43etk7dry5pwroq-story.html – they registered as “home schoolers” and bought the questions. They claim they thought they were buying study materials, not the actual test questions.

      1. That belief seems fairly reasonable: Who would expect the actual test questions to be for sale, prior to the test, outside some kind of under the table transaction? Were they clearly identified as such?

        1. Just saw these two comments. Abstractly, I would agree with Brett. Yet, the article states that the mother believed she had the “actual questions” (which she was willing to trade for the answers to an upcoming, which if true, should resolve any questions about her good faith). Snark aside, the cited article leaves me with more questions than I started with.

        2. “That belief seems fairly reasonable”

          Perhaps to the hopelessly gullible.

          Another parent reported that the mother had offered to provide the ‘actual questions’ for the geography contest in exchange for similar help with resepct to a mathematics competition.

          So . . . lies to purchase the information, failure to report the ‘innocent acquisition’ of the information, an offer to swap the cheating material for other cheating material . . . but some will nonetheless struggle to defend this.

          1. Even if there’s some question over whether they actually intended to cheat or not, there’s certainly enough information that the school’s reaction doesn’t seem out of line. Maybe eventually determined to be incorrect, but that’s not remotely the same thing as IIED.

            1. The argument is that the school board’s accusation against the kids, later recanted, was IIED. The school’s behavior towards the parents would strike most people as reasonable, which may help explain why the jury zeroed out the children.

              1. I should have said zeroed out the remaining plaintiff, the father. (Not the children. Their IIED claims were thrown out.)

        3. I thought it seemed weird for the question to even be available this way. (I was thinking in comparison to Advance Placement.) But I read the rules:

          https://www.nationalgeographic.org/education/student-experiences/geobee/school-rules/

          It looks like schools host the first round of the competition. Schools are given some flexibility to run the test on different days from each other. So schools and home schools must have access to the questions to run the first round.

          After the first round, the winner of a school competition that involved at least 6 kids gets to compete in a statewide competition which is online. Winners of the state round may compete in the National Bee. Presumably those are different questions which cannot be purchased by schools.

          It seems to be intended to be a fun competition. Obviously, winning is also a feather in a kids cap and likely to affect their reputation with teachers at their school.

          1. This is correct. As far as I know, the National Geography Bee has always included a first round conducted by the school. (I am state runner-up from the first ever Bee held in 1988-89.) Normally this would be a teacher in the social studies department. So someone in the school has the answers.

            The school winners take a test that used to be mailed off and is now done online. Those answers are not in the school. The top so many scorers then go to a state bee which is conducted in person, and then the state winners go to the national be which is also conducted in person.

            As a state runner up way back then, I got a cash prize of I think $50 and a very nice wall map. I also traveled to the state bee with a teacher and was interviewed by the newspaper. It was certainly worth something to me.

            Obviously I’d be mad if someone had obtained the answers and rigged winning the school-level competition.

      2. Wakeup Call: Lots of teachers (and principals) have children too, often in the same schools that they are working in. So if GeoBee was sending (or selling) answers to traditional schools, it was creating the exact same situation where other parents (qua teachers) were being given the answers to the contest in which their own children would be competing in.

        Their own children.

        Not to mention the documented (prosecuted) cases of teachers “correcting” their students’ answers on standardized exams. There was a national scandal involving that a few years back, I believe in Chicago, and I doubt it’s the only time it has happened.

        So you don’t hand out the answers. Not before the test.

        1. “Wakeup Call: Lots of teachers (and principals) have children too, often in the same schools that they are working in. So if GeoBee was sending (or selling) answers to traditional schools, it was creating the exact same situation where other parents (qua teachers) were being given the answers to the contest in which their own children would be competing in.”

          Assuming schools are run by incompetents who won’t say “Wait a minute, isn’t your kid in this?” when a teacher (or parent volunteer) tries to access the answers in advance of the competition.
          When my kid was doing academic competitions, she got hosed out of a valuable opportunity. The event was a tournament at which the two top finishers would advance to the next level of competition. After the preliminary rounds, they announced the final bracket: The top qualifier played the second qualifier, and the third qualifier played the fourth qualifier for an opportunity to advance to the next level. This screwup cost my daughter the opportunity to compete at the next level of competition because her team qualified second and then had to face the only team better than hers for a chance to advance. Then, two teams that were (objectively) not as good competed for the other chance to advance. Her team was eliminated despite having beaten one of the teams that advanced in the preliminary rounds. From this we learned that life is not fair and academic competitions are not important. The next year, we took her out of the big suburban high school and started her in college. Now she’s a graduate student. Extracurriculars don’t mean much unless you can write a good essay to explain why they make you a better candidate.

    2. it still seems pretty mild for IIED.

      I agree. IIED isn’t anything that is intentional and causes emotional distress. It’s extreme and outrageous conduct. This was a screw-up, and it embarrassed the plaintiffs, but how was it extreme and outrageous?

    3. …So DID they actually get the questions or not? If they did, then I don’t see anything wrong with what the District did.

      Seriously? If Komal got the questions, then you think the DIstrict was justified in accusing AJ and RJ of cheating?! How on earth can you justify that?

  4. As the son of Indian immigrants … messing with the spelling bee or an immigrant’s ability to take the spelling bee is serious business.

  5. Getting the questions in advance isn’t that big a deal. In some academic competitions, the questions are made public in advance. Now, getting the questions AND ANSWERS in advance actually indicates cheating.

    The core question is what benefit (if any) the children received from the parents obtaining the questions in advance. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that the kids did anything wrong, and they’ve been accused of academic dishonesty. Where’s the evidence that the kids did anything dishonest?

    1. Agree and disagree.
      1. Agree re accusing the kids of intentionally cheating. There was no direct evidence of this (although, if one is convinced that parents are cheating, it’s not exactly crazy to think the kids are involved. But I was certainly oblivious at that tender age, and I would not have known that my parents had been doing anything wrong.
      2. Disagree re the school’s response of barring the kids from the competition. The parents’ actions either gave their children a real advantage or created an impression that their children had a real advantage. Barring the kids from *this* competition seems to be a perfectly reasonable reaction. (I’m much less confident about barring the kids from all future competitions.)

    2. Getting the questions in advance isn’t that big a deal. In some academic competitions, the questions are made public in advance.

      That is like saying that it isn’t that big a deal to tackle an opposing player who’s running the bases in baseball, because in some sports tackling opposing players is what you’re supposed to do,

      1. Are you hoping for a trophy for missing the point?

        1. I’d have to cheat to get that, because you’ve already won it.

          1. And the winner for making baseless claims goes to…

  6. I skimmed the original opinion, and I don’t understand this case.

    There’s nothing here to suggest the school board was incorrect in blaming the parents for cheating. The law firm retained by the school board apparently found insufficient evidence of the children’s culpability, and that charge was withdrawn. At trial, the defendants won on all claims except the IIED claim by the father. There is no indication why this was the case – neither factual nor procedural error is described here.

    Moreover, given the high standards for IIED I can barely understand how a jury could find for the plaintiff yet not award damages. In some cases, nominal damages might do justice. But, the “extreme and outrageous” requirement of IIED, coupled with the requirement of “severe” emotional distress” leave me mystified as to the point the jury believed itself to be making here.

    This is a weird one.

    1. “There’s nothing here to suggest the school board was incorrect in blaming the parents for cheating.”

      Sure. But they accused the KIDS of cheating. Something something sins of the fathers something.

      1. James, it was the father’s IIED claim that prevailed here, not the kids’. And while I agree with the court that charging your kids with cheating will cause you distress, this is a little hard to square with the “directed at” requirement of IIED claims.

        But this is a sideshow. Even mistakenly accusing the children of cheating (and I suspect this is more a question of mens rea) is not “outrageous”. Doing so without any investigation or cause might be. But that’s not what happened here.

        1. Thus, no damages.

  7. If the allegation that Kamal obtain the answers is even likely true, let alone unrefuted, then I don’t see how the investigation and charges could possibly constitute IIED.

    1. Accusing kids of cheating when there apparently isn’t any sign the kids cheated? For the kids, it’s defamation, the closest fit for the parent(s) is IIED. It’s not a good fit, so no damages.

  8. This makes no sense as far as I can tell, unless it was malpractice by the plaintiffs’ attorney in not moving for a new trial due to insufficient (in fact, a non-existent) award of damages. (I only read this post, so it’s possible the lawyer did file such a motion.) Unless this state’s law is unique, the finding of the EXISTENCE of damages is inherent in the finding of liability under an IIED claim. A jury literally has to find that the plaintiff “suffered” extreme mental anguish, etc. as a result of defendant’s intentional outrageous conduct (i.e., causation). The actual damages line on the verdict form is thus for the AMOUNT of the damages, not the existence of damages. But zero dollars equals no damages at all, meaning it’s inconsistent with the liability finding. Unless the attorney failed to live for a new trial (thereby waiving the argument), or maybe screwed up the verdict form (thus possibly forfeiting the argument) I don’t know how this couldn’t be a mistrial because of an inconsistent verdict.
    But fair warning, I only have time to pontificate here, not read the actual decision, so my apologies if this is all explained there and I’m only blowing hot air.

    1. Nick, think “applying to college in three & five years.”

      1. I’m sorry that I’m not getting the reference. I was suggesting that it’s inconsistent to find someone has suffered severe emotional distress as a result of a defendant’s intentional outrageous conduct (which I believe was the jury’s finding here), but then also find that the plaintiff suffered zero dollars worth of damages (even general/non-economic damages for emotional distress). I wonder if the jury felt (or were instructed) that they could only award economic damages for some reason.

    2. Agree with Dr. Ed. The principal reason for a lawsuit like this is not to obtain damages but to recover ones children’s reputation and enable them to have a future career. Any verdict in favor of the plaintiff on anything achieves that. The plaintiff’s attorneys would practically be committing malpractice if they risked jeapordizing this extremely favorable verdict by trying to get it thrown out. They could easily end up losing.

      The anomalies appear to lie in the plaintiff’s favor. They have been given a bone they may not have deserved.

  9. I got to the newspaper article and three things spring out at me:

    “The Julka family has said they obtained the test material unintentionally and that the school’s process of issuing punishment was secretive and unfair when it barred the boys from participating in future contests and added a note to their school records. “

    What’s not widely known is that FERPA allows you to challenge the accuracy of anything in your child’s record, and if the school won’t remove it, you can insert your version next to it. A copy of both versions must stay with the record.

    Assuming that the district doesn’t agree to simply shred the derogatory note in the children’s records (and let them participate in future contests), I’m thinking an intrepid attorney could spin this case into a vindication of the children, probably with overtones of racism and whatnot thrown in as well.

    “In the federal suit, the Julka family says the boys’ uncle, who was helping them study, went to the geography bee’s website and purchased what the family thought were study materials to prepare for the contest. The uncle purchased the material with the mother’s credit card, the suit says. He gave his home address and the National Geographic Society did a background check.”

    Am I the only one thinking of a negligence suit against National Geographic? This may not be widely known, but each state puts out a list of all of the K-12 schools it recognizes, including not only the physical (and mailing) address of the school, but also the principal’s name, and the supervisory district and superintendent’s name, etc. The names sometimes aren’t updated, but the buildings don’t move…

    Not only is this now all on the web but there are all kinds of websites (some more accurate than others) that compile this information. So if Nat Geo had merely Googled the uncle’s address, it would have quickly learned that it didn’t come back to a school — so much for a “background check.”

    “[The school’s attorney] said Komal Julka offered to another mother to trade the geography materials for answers to another math competition. [The school’s attorney] said Julka told that woman she had the “actual questions.”

    Alan Dershowitz has said something about witnesses being pressured to “not only sing, but to compose.” The same sort of thing has been known to happen in K-12, I’ve seen it happen more than once. Hence, I’m skeptical on this.

    1. Dr. Ed,
      This was in Illinois. I don’t think it’s possible for National Geographic to just google for a homeschool address. This is from IL’s web page
      https://www.isbe.net/Pages/Homeschool.aspx
      —-
      >>3. Is there an application or registration process that must be completed before I start home schooling?

      No. The state of Illinois does not require parents to register before they begin home schooling. The state does offer a voluntary registration process, which parents are encouraged to complete by filling out the following ISBE Home Schooling Registration FormPDF Document. There are no other forms, documents, or procedures required by the state of Illinois.
      —– —–
      So in Illinois, it’s quite possible for the address of someone homeschooling their kids to not appear on any list of recognized schools. National Geographic did catch this.

      1. The more I think about this, it looks like the mother & uncle are guilty of fraud. It’s not just homeschool but represent a group of at least 6 homeschoolers, and such groups do exist, usually focused around a church. But I was thinking the uncle was claiming to be from an actual school. And even if Illinois did register students as being homeschooled, FERPA would preclude them telling anyone without parental permission.

        What I don’t think Nat Geo realizes is just how ruthless the college competition has become. It’s how many things you can put onto your resume, details be damned, and I wonder how many more parents are cheating.

        I, personally, wouldn’t have trusted the schools — any of the schools — with the answers. I’ve sat in too many teacher’s rooms to think for an instant that it would be objective and neutral.

        1. Dr. Ed,
          Yes. Groups of home schoolers exist. I’d guess those do file some sort of paperwork with the state to be officially listed as a school. There are also home schoolers whose parents hire tutors for specific subjects. I’ve tutored kids who enrolled in a particular online program, but the parents want some extra one-on-one help to assist kids with difficulties. (I don’t do geography so was entirely unfamiliar with this bee.)

          Hypothetically, someone associated with a homeschool group could want to collect together a group of at least 6 students to have their own ‘bee’. This clearly was not the case with the uncle.

          Maybe in future, National Geographic will create two sets of questions: one set for homeschoolers and one for schools. But the program may not have sufficient funds to vet that many good questions every year.

          1. Why waste time and money on the homeschoolers? If people wish to go it alone, why should mainstream society to indulge them with assistance?

            1. Rev.
              I haven’t read anything to suggest anyone has wasted or even spent any money on homeschoolers. In the context of this GeoBee, could you explain who you think might have done spent money on homeschoolers? If you identify that party and what they spent money on, then we might be able to discuss whether that expenditure would have been a good thing or a bad thing.

              1. Actually, Nat Geo MAKES money on them — I believe it’s a $170 registration fee.

                1. Dr. Ed.
                  That’s my thought. National Geographic makes money when they sell the questions to the Bee.

                  As a private entity, they might chose to sell two sets of questions because selling the same set to home schoolers and others might make regular schools lose confidence and not host the competition. So to retain both revenue streams, they would create two sets of questions.

                  Or they might not create two sets of questions and make other choices.

                  1. How do you trust the outcome if you find out that not everybody was playing the same game?

        2. And even if Illinois did register students as being homeschooled, FERPA would preclude them telling anyone without parental permission.

          No, it wouldn’t.

    2. “Am I the only one thinking of a negligence suit against National Geographic? This may not be widely known, but each state puts out a list of all of the K-12 schools it recognizes, including not only the physical (and mailing) address of the school, but also the principal’s name, and the supervisory district and superintendent’s name, etc. The names sometimes aren’t updated, but the buildings don’t move…”

      Not all students attend K-12 schools. Besides the homeschooled, there are the ones in GED programs run by all sorts of agencies.

  10. It seems likely to me that the reason the references to the kids cheating was removed from the letter at the lawyers recommendation was that they couldn’t prove the kids knew the questions were the actual quiz questions and therefore that the kids knew they did anything wrong. I doubt the kids were subjected to a serious interrogation.

  11. How hard is it to come up with your own spelling bee questions? Seriously. All you need is a dictionary.

    1. Was your comment intended to have some connection to the case that this post is about?

    2. “How hard is it to come up with your own spelling bee questions? Seriously”

      How hard is it to read enough words to figure out that this is not about a spelling bee? Seriously

    3. Lol, the pedants swarm.

      1. So, to you, the difference between geography and spelling is pedantry.
        Or is this just another word you didn’t know?

        1. Word, you’re trying too hard to be boorish. Lighten up.

          1. You don’t want any competition for the boorish cup? Meh. You can have it.

  12. “The next word is ‘conundrum”.
    “Definition, please.”
    “Conundrum: a confusing or difficult situation.”
    “Could you use it in a sentence?”
    “That the parents of a minor bought the answers to a spelling competition, either wittingly or not, and on behalf of their child, posed a moral and legal conundrum as to just who could be considered a cheater or the minor benefactor of cheating, either by intention or not.”
    “(under breath) Hmm. Ok”
    “Conundrum. C-o-n-n-i-v-e-r-y. Conundrum.”

    1. Geography bee. G-e-o-g-r-a-p-h-y B-e-e. Geography bee.

    2. ““The next word is ‘conundrum”.”

      the next word is “comprehension, defined as the ability to read words and understand what they mean”

      1. Haha. Pity the petty.

        1. You mis-spelled a word. Pretty. P-R-E-T-T-Y Pretty.
          sit down.

  13. “Name the peak in the Allegheny Mountains, West Virginia, that was once home to the largest red spruce forest south of Maine before it was completely denuded by 1960.”

    “An additional fact, please.”

    “A river of the same name runs nearby.”

    “Oh, that would be Cheat Mountain. C-h-e-a-t, Cheat.”

    “Correct, and that would make the other feature Cheat River.”

    1. Lots of soil erosion?

      1. No doubt!

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