A Staten Island principal has been caught plagiarizing a nearly 500 word letter from the Huffington Post and distributing it under his own name.
Joseph Scarmato, principal of Tottenville High School—"Home of the Pirates"—reportedly passed off a heartfelt back to school note as his own, despite cribbing it almost entirely from a 2013 piece published online by Canadian professor Dean Shareski. Of Scarmato's 489-word message, 432 words were lifted directly from HuffPo, according to the NY Post.
The theft was noticed by an anonymous school staffer, who told the tabloid, "I was shocked to find out he completely copied the letter to us and did not even credit the original author." The sourced added, "I find this to be hypocritical, especially since he has instituted new regulations against students plagiarizing other’s works."
Among the plagiarized segments, both letters noted: "Go help kids learn, smile and belong. Ask hard and interesting questions. Try new things. Share what you’re learning. Ask for help...We know not every day will be awesome...We work with kids. They are much like us only at the beginning of their learning journey. It’s our wisdom and care that they need."
The Post notes that Scarmato was wise enough to change "honour" to "honor," and to leave out a section in which the original author acknowledged his own potential faults—"I’m sorry if we’ve not given you the trust and respect to do your job. This is what we as leaders need to do better."
Reached for comment, the plagiarizing principal hung up on us. He did tell the Post: "I admit that this was a bad judgment call and that I did not set a good example for my students and staff. I apologize for my mistake and remain committed to serving my school community."
Previously, Scarmato sparked protests from the Tottenville student body in 2014, when he instituted a dress code—"for all the young ladies"—that prohibited skinny jeans, tank tops, and short-shorts, and mandated "all shorts/skirts must be at relaxed hand-level."
A Department of Education spokesperson also could not be reached for comment, but told the Post there were no plans to discipline the principal.