English department clarifies tutoring policy

Marcella Park

The English department outlined its policy on tutors and secondary sources in a Wednesday email to upper school parents and students.

A statement titled “Writing English Essays at Home” was included in the message with a letter from department chair Laurence Weber and started by saying the department discourages the use of tutors for take-home assignments.

“If a student does receive tutoring help, his or her English teacher needs to know,” it read, and “if a student has received unauthorized help, as evidenced, for example, by a take-home essay far more sophisticated in style or in substance than a student has demonstrated in timed writings, then the English Department will treat such a case as a potential Honor Code violation.”

“In the interest of [students’] learning, and of our helping them discover and sharpen their own voices in our study of great literature, we continue to re-evaluate our own practices and clarify our plagiarism policies,” Weber’s letter read after mentioning an increase in plagiarism in colleges and high schools.

The department classified “changing the content of a student’s essay in any way” as “unauthorized aid,” while “helping a student clarify his or her ideas, but without dictating an essay’s structure” was listed as a form of “acceptable aid.”

Consulting any source other than the primary text and a dictionary, such as SparkNotes and other secondary sources, web-based or not, would be considered an Honor Code violation, unless one’s teacher decides otherwise, the statement read.

Weber said that family members or non-family members would count as tutors if they helped students with homework.