(CBS) — Four dozen Oak Lawn High School seniors won’t be graduating with the rest of their class on Wednesday, after allegedly cheating on their community service hours requirement.
WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports the students had to do 24 hours of community service over their entire four years in high school, but 47 of them didn’t, and allegedly had another student forge forms saying they did. Those 47 students now will have to do the community service for real before they can get their diplomas.
“Unfortunately, they tried to take the easy way out, and it’s very disappointing to us here at the school. We certainly try to instill the understanding of the importance of integrity,” said principal Michael Riordan.
Ironically, a 48th student who performed his required community service was the ringleader, and allegedly charged $10 to $20 apiece to forge the signature of the general manager of Stony Creek Golf Course, indicating the other 47 students did their community service as required.
Riordan said school counselors noticed something was off on some of the forms.
“It wasn’t until the very end, when some signatures looked a little bit different, that we followed up a little further, and found out that all of the documents were falsified,” Riordan said.
The alleged ringleader was suspended. He will get his diploma, but cannot attend graduation.
Other students at Oak Lawn High School said they’re told from the start they must put in at least 24 hours of community service in order to graduate.
“Freshman year, they hammer you down, saying ‘Oh, you’ve got to finish these,” junior Jackie Taylor said.
The students weren’t getting a lot of sympathy from other students who completed their requirements.
“I think it’s a case of laziness,” said Sean Altenburg, a 2013 graduate.
Colin Altemburg, a 2011 graduate, said the punishment is fair.
“They still, in the end, get to graduate. They might not get to walk with their friends, and get that experience, but they … should have thought that through,” he said.
Despite the pleas of some parents, Riordan said the punishment will stand for every student. He said he empathizes with parents who will miss seeing their child walk down the aisle at graduation, but said he must uphold the integrity of the rules every other student obeyed.
“High school graduation’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I get that, but as a school official our job is to uphold the integrity of our expectations,” he said.