How much power do you have to punish plagiarizers? Do you think the penalties are severe enough? While no professor I know would allow crib sheets in a conventional test, it is much harder to follow through with appropriate discipline on a term paper without jumping through so many hoops that it makes a professor reluctant to begin the process at all.
I wish that there were more reprocussions at my school. Last year I caught a student who had copied and pasted an essay directly from wikipedia. The horror. I took the paper to the director, and all the student was required to do was write a make-up assignment. I tried to get the directer to reconsider and have a harsher punishment, but I work at a private school (expensive) and this was a graduating Senior. Are there laws or state standards that govern how to deal with this issue?
Students at my school are given a zero for the assignment, and they have to appear before the Honor Council, an elected group of their peers, which can make recommendations for punishment to the headmaster. A number of options exist including in-school suspension or even expulsion if the student has previous offenses. Our Honor Code works well, as far as I'm concerned, in discouraging plagiarism because it's relatively to catch culprits and the consequences can be severe.
We have a "zero tolerance" policy at our school as well, but last year I tried to enact that policy and it was then that I found out the effort was useless. I turned in the term paper with the proof of plagiarism (a quite poor attempt since it was copied word for word from one of our text book's sample essay page) and the administration, in an effort to keep "numbers" up at our school did not even suspend said student. In fact, the student was sent back to my class the same day and the referral I wrote was completely ignored. It makes it tough when no one backs you on the punishments, but I did what I could and failed the student in my class since this term paper was considered the final for the class, but that is the extent of what I can do. It was upsetting that this student tried to address his failing grade with the administration in an effort to have it changed, thinking that since he got away with it he shouldn't get a failing grade. Luckily the administration has absolutely no power when it comes to grades. Failing the class is the only leg I have to stand on in the face of plagiarism.
At our school, we give zeros, which can definitely hurt when the paper is worth 100-200 points. But in addition, the student has to re-do the entire assignment, by hand, only using sources they can find in our school library. If the teacher is feeling generous, he/she can appeal to the English Dept. Chair (me) and request that they be allowed to give the student a few points toward the work they re-did. More often than not, though, the student still receives the zero.
We're tough on any cheating here. First offense earns a one day in-school suspension. We actually have a room the kids call "The Hole". It's a small room with just a desk that's located between the principal and sup's offices. It's windowed to both offices so even though the student can't hear what's happening in the admin offices, both admins can see the student all day. If the student falls asleep or is unruly, they are sent home for the rest of the day (marked as an OSS) and brought back the next day for another ISS. Subsequent violations earn additional ISS days. The scores are also recorded as a O, but that doesn't have near the influence as potentially sitting in a room and doing nothing but be watched from 8:30-3:30.
I've taught in three different high schools and none of them have taken it seriously. I can give a zero, but that's about it. I think they should face some disciplinary measures as well, but I don't think that will ever happen. I did have one administrator say the kid should have to redo it for no credit, but the admin never followed through.
The most I can do about plagiarism is give the student a 0 on that assignment. However, my school is adopting the "High Schools That Work" program, in which 0's are not allowed--students are given an incomplete until they turn in acceptable work. So I guess threatening them with not being able to graduate until they've cleared up all incompletes is all we can do. Intellectual property theft just isn't taken seriously enough in our schools. Having worked in publishing for money years, I know that it is a real crime with real consequences. Until we have a high school student sued for copyright infringement, though, I don't think anything will change.