Indianapolis Public Schools board candidate Ramon Batts said Wednesday that he regrets representing work from three national advocacy organizations as his own in his responses to a Chalkbeat Indiana survey.
“That’s what happens when you’re doing things at 1 or 2 a.m,” said Batts.
Someone working for his campaign helped him compile the research before he sent in his responses, he said, and the citations to those sources were accidentally left off when he submitted the survey.
“It’s something I should have seen and caught,” he said.
Some of Batts’s survey answers are very similar to published material from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust, containing identical words and phrases but not citing those sources. Surveys from 10 school board candidates running this fall for three seats on the board were published by Chalkbeat Indiana Monday.
For example, Batts wrote about school discipline in his survey that: “’Zero-tolerance’ policies often criminalize minor infractions of school rules, which lead to students being adjudicated for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Research shows students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the uneven application of discipline.”
On the ACLU’s website, a page devoted to the school-prison-pipeline states: “‘Zero-tolerance’ policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in school lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.”
Batts is running against incumbent school board president Annie Roof and three other challengers for an at-large school board seat. Most of his survey answers appear to be original work. The copied responses were not intentional, he said.
“It was just a mistake,” Batts said. “It doesn’t negate my passion for IPS students and wanting to make sure they have the right leaders on board. I’m fairly disappointed about the whole thing. Certainly, I know better.”
An English writing professor and Writing Center faculty adviser at IUPUI reviewed some of the similarities, and found them troubling. David Cardwell, who has been reviewing student papers for 13 years, said that it appears Batts would have been well-served to credit the ACLU and other sources in his writing.
“If you take someone else’s ideas, it’s plagiarism,” Cardwell said. “If you do not give them credit for their words or phrases, that’s also plagiarism. If you paraphrase, you have to change everything.”
The similarities were first noticed by a Chalkbeat commenter who goes by Karynb9,. The commenter argued in the comments under Batts’s Chalkbeat survey response that Batts’ answers, without credit to any outside sources, would have violated the school district’s own discipline policy for its students, which lists as one of 29 serious infractions that can result in a suspension or expulsion: “Engaging in academic dishonesty, including cheating, intentionally plagiarizing, wrongfully giving or receiving help during an academic examination, and wrongfully obtaining test copies or scores.”
Karynb9 could not be reached for by Chalkbeat for an interview.
“Show this to any middle school English teacher and ask if a student making those comments in a similar paper is guilty of plagiarism,” Karynb9 wrote in a comment on Chalkbeat’s site.
Batts’ campaign volunteer, the former journalist and IPS spokeswoman Kim Hooper, defended him in a comment. Another commenter also came to his defense, writing that they didn’t “see anything wrong with using reputable research information as the basis for one’s platform.”
“Where is the plagiarism, Karynb9?” Hooper asked. “Discussion is plagiarism?”
Roof declined to comment about the plagiarism charges against her opponent.
Compare other examples from Batts’ survey to other published sources
Batts’s Chalkbeat survey: “Educators with multilingual and multicultural backgrounds can be advocates and provide crucial support for diverse students and families.”
National Association for the Education of Young Children position paper: “Individuals with multilingual and multicultural backgrounds can be advocates and crucial support for diverse young children and families.”
Batts’s Chalkbeat survey: “It is the schools’ responsibility to extend a hand of mutual collaboration to families and initiate the process of engagement.”
Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust: “Doing so helps put the responsibility also on the schools to extend a hand to families and initiate the process of engagement.”
Chalkbeat Indiana is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.