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Local Editorials

Integrity, honesty lacking in music program scandal

The IHSA has punished the Oregon High School music program for violating music contest rules. The episode is a learning opportunity for students and adults alike.

The Illinois High School Association, on its website, lists 13 “IHSA Beliefs.” The very last belief states, “IHSA believes integrity and honesty are non-negotiable.”

Certain people involved with the Oregon High School choir program have learned the hard way that the IHSA means what it says.

After allegations of cheating at a state music contest surfaced last month, Oregon High School investigated the claims and informed the IHSA of the situation.

Now, the IHSA has come down with its ruling, and the outcome for Oregon High School isn’t pretty.

The school’s music program was placed on probation for the 2013-14 school year.

The “music teacher,” who has not been officially named, is banned from participating in any way with Oregon or any other IHSA member school for the next 2 years during solo, ensemble, and organizational music contests.

The school’s placement in the state contest must be vacated.

Students who won awards, medals and trophies as a result of cheating must return them.

Superintendent Tom Mahoney said an investigation by the school verified that cheating did occur.

What kind of cheating?

“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 a news release.

Such activities helped Oregon’s music program unfairly compete by allowing talented students to participate in more events than contest rules allow. With 240 total points, the program captured first place in the Class B vocal competition – an accomplishment that now is tarnished.

Those who have attended IHSA music contests know they are hectic. Scores of boys and girls practice scales in rehearsal rooms, ferry instruments to and fro in the hallways, and engage in an assembly line performances in multiple rooms before out-of-area judges.

It’s easy to understand how a scheme such as Oregon’s could have succeeded.

It’s harder to understand how the “music teacher” and students could justify their deception.

We thought the Vince Lombardi philosophy, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” applied only to football. Guess not.

The Oregon School District did the right thing in self-reporting the allegations and in putting the “music teacher” on paid administrative leave.

At next week’s Oregon School Board meeting, board members may take up the matter and possibly take action, though the contemplated action has not been revealed.

Superintendent Mahoney also was correct to use the episode as a “learning opportunity” with students. We hope they take to heart the IHSA Belief about honesty and integrity being non-negotiable.

Perhaps the IHSA also ought to take action regarding itself: Move IHSA Belief No. 13 to IHSA Belief No. 1.

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