Information in this report was confirmed by students involved in the scandal, who requested anonymity due to the ongoing nature of the Department of Education (DOE) investigation.
News of the most significant scandal in Stuyvesant history broke in the last weeks of the 2011-12 school year when a group of students was discovered to have cheated on four state exams. The Spectator investigated the sequence of events that has led most recently to the potential suspension of 66 students.
The cheating ring, led by Nayeem Ahsan, a junior at the time, sent answers via smart phone to a list of students he had assembled in advance. Texting records and students’ testimonies have revealed that cheating occurred during the Physics, United States History, and English Regents, as well the Spanish Language Other Than English (LOTE) exam, on Wednesday, June 13, Thursday, June 14, Friday, June 15, and Monday, June 18, respectively. The Stuyvesant administration and the DOE have concluded that a total of 71 students were willingly involved in the cheating over finals week.
On the Physics exam, pictures of test answers were sent to the list on Ahsan’s phone. On the English and U.S. History exams, students who had finished the test quickly sent answers to Ahsan, who forwarded them to other students in text-message form. It is unclear how many students cheated during each of these exams. The texting chain was compiled from students who asked to be on the list, students whose friends added their names to the list or forwarded the texts themselves, and students who allegedly had not asked for the questions, but were given answers by Ahsan’s own volition.
After one of the exams, a student with knowledge of the ongoing cheating approached Principal Stanley Teitel to reveal that a cheating ring, led by Ahsan, had shared answers during the Regents exams. Additionally, the administration found similarities between Ahsan’s and another student’s Physics exams.
The LOTE exam was administered the next Monday, June 18. Teitel assigned social studies teacher Daniel Tillman to proctor Ahsan’s class’s Spanish LOTE, instructing him to watch for any suspicious behavior. A few minutes into the exam, Tillman stepped out of the class and alerted Teitel of Ahsan’s cell use. Tillman then re-entered the room accompanied by Teitel, who confronted Ahsan, asked if he had a cell phone, and then escorted him out of the testing room to the principal’s office.
In the following days, it was discovered from Ahsan’s phone that 92 juniors were involved in either giving or receiving test answers from Ahsan. The parents of these students received letters stating that their child had received texts containing answers, and that the students were barred from holding leadership positions in certain school organizations, from participating in SING! 2013, and from leaving the school building for lunch.
Over the last few days of school, students who were implicated in the scandal had the opportunity to appeal to the administration to demonstrate that they had not intentionally received the texts, or had not viewed them. In addition to individual interviews with Teitel and Assistant Principal of Organization Randi Damasek, every student accused of cheating answered a prepared questionnaire and a written statement with their account of what happened. Twenty-one students were able to convince the administration that they were not involved in the cheating ring.
On Friday, August 3, a letter from Teitel was posted on the Stuyvesant website stating that he would retire as of September 1. He did not mention the cheating scandal in his statement. On Monday, August 6, Jie Zhang, former principal of Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, was named Interim-Acting Principal by the DOE.
Students implicated in the scandal were called in to Stuyvesant on Thursday, August 9, and were asked to share information as part of the DOE’s investigation of how the administration handled the situation. All of the students involved are required to retake the Regents exams that they had cheated on. Many of them did so over the summer.
On Friday, September 7, the DOE announced superintendent’s suspensions for 12 students, with the possibility that 54 more could receive principal’s suspensions after individual conferences with Zhang during the week of September 9. Students were contacted by their guidance counselors and were alerted as to whether they were suspended or not, and whether they faced further disciplinary actions. On Friday, September 14, the students who received superintendent’s suspensions have a disciplinary hearing held by the DOE to determine whether they will be suspended for a longer length of time.