Help! My Principal Changed an Athlete’s Grade So He Could Play Basketball

I finalized the student’s grades with a zero for the plagiarized essay he never redid, and my principal changed it to an 85 overnight.

Illustration of a teacher frustrated by a principal who changed grades of an athlete

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I teach our high school’s basketball star player. Earlier in the quarter he submitted a plagiarized essay, an automatic zero in our school’s grading policy. His parents and my AP pressured me to let him redo the essay, which I did, but he never submitted one. I finalized his grades with a zero for the plagiarized essay, but later discovered my AP changed it to an 85. When I asked my AP why, he said, “I changed it because I thought he turned it in and didn’t want to call you about it so close to midnight.” Is it petty revenge or an ethical obligation to report my AP at this point? —Petty Patty and the Personal Foul

Dear P.P.A.T.P.F.,

It’s important to consider both sides in this case of whether or not to report your AP. Check out how these teachers responded, and then I’ll weigh in with my two cents.

“What we permit, we promote.”

“It’s a hard adage to live by in the moment, but one that you won’t ever regret setting firm boundaries with in the long run. Knowing this lie and not saying anything means you’re ok with it, and it sounds like you don’t think that’s ok. Report it and let those chips fall; nothing is worth your integrity on this!”

—Barbara G.

“Unfortunately, it is your name that will be on that report card as responsible for that grade.”


“Speak with your union or association, if you have one. Honestly, I would get as far away from this train wreck as possible, but once again, your name is going to be linked to it, and I’m just not sure I would be willing to live with that without a fight.

—Jill M.

“I would say that you may have to take the high road on this one.”

“Document it just in case this become a pattern but it sounds like it’s going to be a he said/they said/family said situation. In the end, I can envision administration putting back on the teacher on why they didn’t follow up on the student.”

—Ayla D.

I agree with Ayla that it’s not worth the who-said-what argument to try to claim that your AP changed the grade knowing full well the work hadn’t been turned in. But I also don’t think that means you have to just sit by and let an unethical move happen, especially one attached to your name, as Jill pointed out.

I would email your district’s athletic director and CC your AP and principal. Make it clear that the student did not earn a passing grade in your class and that the grade was changed from failing to passing by your AP under the assumption that the work had been turned in. Be completely factual, but assume best intent on your AP’s part (in writing, anyway). Is this throwing him under the bus? To him, I’m sure it is. But when your AP makes a blatantly unethical decision that undermines your integrity, I think they’ve surrendered the courtesy of a pre-conference.

Earlier in my career, I would have said let the athlete have this win and move on. But after working for seven years at a K-12 school, I feel differently. We came to understand how detrimental it is to a child’s development to shield them from failure. The longer we wait to let them experience and cope with failure, the steeper the consequences (emotional, legal, social etc.) are when they finally do.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I coach our middle school’s track team that practices after school. I have one parent who is often late to pick up her daughter. A late pickup every once in a while is no big deal, but she is consistently about ten minutes late to every practice. I’ve talked to her twice to clarify our practice end time. She’s always very kind and apologetic, but after a week or so will slip back into being late. I want to be empathetic to her hectic schedule, but I also WANT TO GO HOME. —Not Here for Unpaid Labor

Dear N.H.F.U.L.,

It’s kind of you to empathize with the parent. But your time matters, too. Ten minutes of wasted time adds up fast if it’s happening every weekday.

Tell your principal that you have a parent consistently late to pick-up despite reminders. Ask for advice on what your next steps should be. Your administrator likely has perspective on how to approach this situation. You may also want to talk to your district’s athletic director. It sounds like it might be a good idea to write expectations for timely pickup into the paperwork for athletics.

If the parent finds it too hard to adjust their schedule, offer to help them navigate a carpool arrangement. The best outcome is a student who gets to stay in track, and a teacher whose after-school routine gets to stay on track.

Dear WeAreTeachers,
I’m in my first year as an 8th grade science teacher. I’m struggling with a specific classroom management issue my teaching courses definitely never talked about: boys making sexual groaning noises during class. I’ve obviously told them to stop, but they either pretend to not know what I’m talking about or do it when my back is turned and I can’t possibly figure out who did it to punish them. I don’t want to give the whole class a consequence and I don’t want to reveal to my principal that I’m struggling with such a gross classroom problem. What do I do? —Boys Will Be Boys Held Accountable For Their Actions

Dear B.W.B.H.A.F.T.A.,

Ah, yes. I saw the emergence of this in my classroom and hated it, too. I nipped it in the bud with, “So, how do you think I should spell out that noise you’re making in an email to your mom about your behavior?”. But that’s only because I knew who was behind it. Plus, I looped with my students for three years. They knew very well when I was Not Here to Play.

Since you’re not sure who is making the noises and it seems to be getting out of control, email an administrator. Tell them you’re experiencing sexual harassment from students in one of your classes. If you’re feeling uncomfortable and annoyed, it’s likely you have students who are feeling the same way.

If your AP doesn’t offer, ask for them to come in and teach a mini lesson on sexual harassment. Make sure students understand the legal consequences if the harassment continues. The students making these noises need a lesson on consent. Plus, your other students need to see that their teacher won’t tolerate boundaries being violated.

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Dear WeAreTeachers,
After being on a very cliquish fourth grade team last year, I asked to be moved up to fifth grade. This year, not being “in” with my new team is affecting me professionally.  The whole team “forgot” to include me in their Halloween plans, so they showed up in a matching costume. I did not. They also “accidentally” used the wrong group text for critical last-minute updates about a field trip, which made me look totally lost and disorganized in front of all our parent chaperones. What do I do? —Just Not Cliqueing

This week on AskWeAreTeachers, we cover a grade-changing principal, a chronically late parent at pick-up, and a serious middle school issue.