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District, IHSA punishes music teacher, students

False names used 2 years in a row during contests, investigation finds

OREGON – Some Oregon High School music students will be giving back the awards and trophies they brought home from the last 2 years of state solo and ensemble contests because of rules violations.

That will be just some of the sanctions imposed by school district officials and the Illinois High School Association after an investigation of reports of cheating at the March 2 competition at West Carroll High School in Savanna.

Oregon Superintendent Tom Mahoney said in a news release that the investigation showed the rules violations did occur.

“Under the direction of their teacher, at both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 IHSA Solo and Ensemble Contests, Oregon High School students participated under the names of other students and therefore violated IHSA rules,” Mahoney said in the release issued Monday afternoon.

Choir teacher Mitch Lauer was placed on paid administrative leave April 9. Attempts to reach him by phone have not succeeded.

Mahoney said earlier that the investigation began after school officials received information that, with the knowledge of their teacher, some choir students had performed under other students’ names as a way to increase the number of events in which they could participate.

The district’s news releases have not referred to Lauer by name, but have instead said the “choir teacher” or “music teacher.”

Mahoney’s statement Monday said the district reported the violations to IHSA officials and decided the school will vacate its placement in state competition through the IHSA Solo and Ensemble contest, including returning all trophies and plaques associated with the accomplishment.

High school officials also met individually with each student who broke the rules and collected any medals earned under a different student’s name.

According to IHSA records, Oregon scored 240 total points and took first place in Class B in this year’s vocal competition.

The IHSA imposed additional sanctions. The “music teacher” is prohibited from participating in any way with OHS or any other IHSA member school during the IHSA Solo And Ensemble and Organizational Music Contests during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.

This includes but is not limited to attending the contests, managing and directing at the contests, and having contact with students during the contests.

The OHS music program will be on probation for the 2013-14 school year.

Probationary status does not deprive the school of any of it privileges as an IHSA member. However, it serves as an official warning that any further violation of IHSA by-laws or other organization rules could bring more serious consequences, the release said.

Mahoney would not say if Lauer has submitted a letter of resignation. He said that because a resignation can be rescinded, it is not official until it is accepted by the school board.

The board is expected to address the matter and possibly take action at its May 20 meeting.

“The mission of the district is to ‘Educate students to be lifelong learners who are productive, responsible citizens,’” Mahoney said. “We have used, and will continue to use, this situation as a learning opportunity for our students to grow.”

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