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Schools trustee sorry for plagiarism in speech

A Red Deer Public Schools trustee has apologized for plagiarizing portions of her speech to Hunting Hills High School graduates.

Dianne Macaulay said she didn’t mean to plagiarize but admits she should have credited where she got material she used in her May 24 address at the Centrium, where her daughter was among graduating students.

Macaulay said to avoid becoming the “emotional mom” who makes a speech that makes her cry on stage she turned to the Internet for other notable graduation speeches that touched on the message she wanted to deliver.

“When I gave my speech I neglected in citing any of those Internet speeches, and topics and jokes and songs and other things I incorporated in my speech.

“I didn’t give any reference to that. My mistake, big, big lesson learned.”

Macaulay said she drew on a speech she found on YouTube from an American teacher delivered in the U.S. among other sources. She also sang a few lyrics from current chart topper Pink.

“Honestly, it was a mistake on my part for not knowing the full extent of what plagiarism is and I thank those that pointed it out to me.”

She didn’t hear of the plagiarism rumblings until the following week, when the school division received complaints about the address before about 3,000 students, staff, friends and family members.

“When it was brought to my attention that plagiarism (accusations) were being brought, I was absolutely willing to apologize and say sorry for never (giving) credit for those words that were not my own.”

Macaulay issued a formal written apology to graduates and their parents on Red Deer Public Schools letterhead on Thursday.

“I acknowledge that my speech was based on sources that I did not reference and that this was not appropriate,” she says, in an apology sent to Grade 12 students and their parents.

“I deeply regret my actions and I am truly sorry. It will not happen again.”

School board chair Lawrence Lee said “whisperings” of plagiarism came to light on the Monday after the address and he decided to convene a special meeting of the board as soon as all trustees were available last Wednesday.

“I thought it was very important to address the issue before we had the public coming to her,” said Lee.

“In education, it’s a very, very serious offence when you do something like that and I guess she didn’t recognize it initially, and I think she does now.”

In a statement released on Tuesday, the board says that it believes Macaulay’s actions “were not appropriate but also accepts this as a mistake and appreciates the steps that were needed and taken by Trustee Macaulay to mitigate the issue.”

In her interview, Macaulay said she is aware of how seriously schools take plagiarism incidents, which land students a zero on their assignments if caught, and supports that attitude.

“I’m definitely willing to share what I’ve learned with new trustees in the fall,” she said.

Lee said coincidentally a code of conduct for trustees was on the agenda for later this year as part of the new Education Act and speech protocols will be addressed.

“I think it’s going to be something that would come out in that trustee code of conduct we’ve just developed. We’re looking at putting that in place before the next school year.”



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