When a journalist, politician or student uses someone else's words without attribution in a speech or a paper, it's called plagiarism – and it's often enough to get a journalist fired, a politician embarrassed or a student kicked out of school. In this NY1 exclusive, Education reporter Lindsey Christ reports on what happens when it's someone who represents a million-and-a-half teachers.
Randi Weingarten used to run the teachers' union in New York City. Now she runs the national teachers' union, the American Federation of Teachers. When she talks, people listen. But what happens when the words she uses aren't her own?
Here's what Weingarten said in a speech about a week ago: "The New York City Department of Education wanted to compile student information and give parents and teachers access to it, using one computer system. They said it would revolutionize the way schools work."
Sound familiar? It did to us. A few weeks ago, NY1 did a special series about problems with the department's $80 million computer system, called ARIS.
Here's how NY1 anchor Lewis Dodley introduced it: "When the city spent tens of millions of dollars on a computer system for student information, officials said it would revolutionize the way schools worked."
That's just the beginning. Here's more:
NY1: When teachers at some 200 city schools want to check their students' progress, they just click on their pictures to get what they need: Everything from attendance by class period, parents' cell phone numbers, the type of help the student should get because of a disability. And the hard numbers, state exam scores and day-to-day grades, like last night's math homework.
Weingarten: "When teachers at some city schools want to check student progress... [they] click on the picture of the student and get everything from attendance by class period, to parents’ cell phone numbers, to last night's math homework, to even the type of help the student might need because the student has a disability."
Weingarten actually strayed from the original written speech, which included more of NY1's reporting, word for word.
When NY1 contacted the union, Weingarten issued a statement, which can be read below.
She also called the NY1 newsroom personally several times. She said she takes full responsibility, but told NY1 that she did not write the speech and was livid about the plagiarism.
Weingarten said she has already taken steps to make sure the teachers' union never again fails one of school's most important lessons.
Her speech was on the AFT's website for more than a week, along with a copyright warning against using its content without permission.
However, as of Wednesday night there was a revised version of the speech that added quotes around the words taken from NY1 and added a footnote reading: "Much of this information about ARIS comes from a report by NY1’s Lindsey Christ. Quotes from the NY1 report are noted by quotation marks. This attribution was inadvertently omitted from an earlier version."
Weingarten On Plagiarism
"NY1 is right. These facts came from their excellent reporting. It was our intention to amplify the troubling misallocation of resources NY1 exposed, not to claim either NY1’s reporting or the reporter’s words as our own. It was our mistake not to clearly credit NY1 and its reporter Lindsey Christ. And, while we sourced many other materials, we neither sourced nor quoted this and I deeply apologize for that lapse. Educators know better and in the future due diligence we expect from others will be exercised here. This error has been corrected so that NY1 receives proper attribution for its important reporting on this issue that has such pressing educational and economic implications."