Think before you judge



Charlie* ’10 took part in stealing the World and Europe I history midterm. He has been permanently expelled from Harvard-Westlake.

He has been subsequently maligned and criticized by the community, and perhaps rightfully so. He has been labeled in many circles as a “bad seed” and a “despicable child.”

Charlie is also my friend. Being friends with him, I feel that I know what kind of person he truly is. I condemn what he did. It is indefensible. However, I do not condemn who he is. If I only knew this one fact about him, I could possibly assume that he was a bad seed or despicable child. But I know he is a good person. I feel that if the rest of the community knew him the way I did, they would feel this way too.

“I will never cheat again.” Charlie says these words with clarity, his voice firm. “What I did was wrong. I deserved to be expelled.”

Charlie felt constant pressure at Harvard-Westlake, and did not steal the test because of a feeling of superiority, but because “I felt like what I was capable of wasn’t good enough.” But Charlie makes sure to have me note: “Don’t take this as an excuse for my actions.”
Before his expulsion, Charlie had a clean record, but with the mounting pressures at the Upper School, he tried to take the easy way out.

He calls the three weeks of investigations “the hardest stretch of time in my life.”
“Every day I had to watch my mom cry because of what I did. That does something to you, having your own mother not being able to look at you without crying. Watching her break down when we got the call that I was expelled…I never want to feel that way again.”

Charlie’s eyes begin to well, as he fights back tears. After being expelled, Charlie wrote long e-mails to his teachers, expressing how deeply sorry he was, not because he had something to gain, but because he felt it was right.

Through all his struggles, Charlie has tried to stay strong. Most importantly, he has learned his lesson.

“The SAT could be right in front of me, and I wouldn’t even look at it,” he said, his newfound moral code strong.

Still, Charlie is pained by how he damaged his relationships with the people he respected.
“One of the worst things was walking by my teachers in the hallways after they found out about everything, and seeing how they couldn’t look me in the eye. That hurt.”

Charlie talks about how it “bugs” him how people have voiced such sweeping judgments about him without really knowing him. He wishes that he could just have the opportunity to “regain their trust and to show them that I am a good person.”

Despite everything, Charlie tries to carry himself with pride: “I feel ashamed for what I did, but I am not ashamed of who I am.”

So now I ask you to think, who is Charlie?

*Name withheld upon request.