A group of high school students in southeastern Kansas have written an article about their new principal which resulted in her resigning from her position. The students, working for their school newspaper, the Booster Redux, uncovered how their new principal had lied about her qualifications. “Most high schoolers would never get even close to an opportunity to get to experience something like this,” one of the students told the Washington Post, calling the experience “surreal.”
The students never wanted to undermine their principal; their primary goal was to get to know the person hired to manage their school. Through research, however, the students started to find discrepancies in their principal’s education credentials. Amy Robertson had written that she had acquired a Master’s Degree in 1994 and her Ph.D. in 2010 from Corllins University, but when the students searched online for the school the website was shut down.
3. Weeks Of Investigation (Even During Spring Break)
Most students would drop everything once spring break comes around, but these high school kids kept going with their research. “There were some things that just didn’t quite add up,” one of the students said. Consulting local journalists, the group moved forward with the investigation to uncover the woman who was essentially their superior.
In their article, the six students wrote how Corllins university has been written about in a number of online articles about it being a website where people can buy a degree. These allegations were afterward confirmed by the US department of education which confirmed that this university closed in 1986 and it wasn’t a BBB-accredited institution.
Once the article was published, an emergency faculty meeting was called where the principal was asked to present her undergraduate transcript from the University of Tulsa. Robertson failed to do this. “In light of the issues that arose, the school announced in a statement, “Dr. Robertson felt it was in the best interest of the district to resign her position.”
Despite the statement of resignation, Robertson has denied the allegations made by the students. TheKansas City Star tried to get Robertson to comment on the article. The ex-principal refused to comment, simply saying that her university degrees “have been authenticated by the US government.”
Parents and students, including the six journalists, were present in the school boardroom when Robertson’s resignation was announced. When the announcement was made, one of the parents asked school officials if the six journalists would be thanked for their investigative work. The superintendent confirmed that the students would be thanked personally the following day.
From the locals to established journalists, the story of what these students did went viral and the six students were praised for their investigative work. Often, students doubt their right to question their authorities but these six journalists persisted in asking questions that not even those who had hired the principal had asked. In doing so, students have proved that challenging authority is important, if something doesn’t feel right.
Connor Balthazor, one of the six students, talks about the moment their story had reached one of the reporters at the Boston Globe. Todd Wallack of the Boston Globe had in fact tweeted about the story, saying, “Great investigative work by high school journalists.” Balthazor was in the parking lot when he saw the tweet, calling his mother right after to tell her the exciting news.
“I honestly thought they were joking at first,” Balthazor adds, when talking about the international praise. “It was awesome to know that such respected members of the journalism community had our backs.” “We’d broken out of our comfort zones so much,” Balthazor recalls. “To know that the administration saw that and respected that, it was a really great moment for us.”
It wasn’t always exciting, the students recall. People kept telling them, “stop poking your nose where it doesn’t belong.” With the support of their superintendent, however, the students kept working. “They were at a loss that something that was so easy for them to see was waiting to be noticed by adults,” Emily Smith, the newspaper adviser explained.
The pressure on the next principal hired for this school is on, now that the board has already been bitten once. When it comes to the students, the future is all theirs. They may not all want to pursue journalism degrees, but this was a life-affirming lesson for them that they should never doubt questioning their authority when things don’t feel right.