Pupil journalists force high-school headteacher to resign

6th April 2017 at 17:50
student journalism, school newspaper, principal, investigation, pittsburg high school, kansas, fake degree
Pupils' investigations called into question their principal's qualifications and her suitability for the post

In the 1970s, two investigative journalists famously brought down a president.

But now a group of high-school investigative journalists have pulled off their own equivalent of Watergate: they have brought down their school principal.

Pupil reporters at Pittsburg High School, in Kansas, dug into their new principal’s past, raising questions about her qualifications and her suitability to serve in the $93,000 (£74,500) post.

The pupils began their investigation into Amy Robertson’s background, after their suspicions were raised during an initial online search for her name.

This revealed several stories from 2012, published by Gulf News, which said that officials in Dubai had suspended the licence of the school where Dr Robertson was principal. The officials had accused her of not being authorised to work in Dubai. The school was given an “unsatisfactory” rating, before being shut down in 2013.

“That raised a red flag,” 17-year-old Pittsburg pupil Maddie Baden told the Kansas City Star. “If students could uncover this, I want to know why the adults couldn’t.”

Uncovering the truth

The pupils then went on to question the legitimacy of Corllins University, the unaccredited online college that had awarded Dr Robertson a master’s degree and a doctorate. They found several online articles referring to Corllins as a place awarding degrees and certificates for cash.

“She was going to be the head of our school, and we wanted to be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials,” said pupil Trina Paul, who edits The Booster Redux, the Pittsburg High newspaper. “We stumbled on some things that most might not consider legitimate credentials.”

Dr Robertson has since resigned her post, and her resignation has been accepted by the local school board.

“All three of my degrees have been authenticated by the US government,” she wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, Emily Smith, the school’s journalism adviser, has said that she is very proud of her pupils’ tenacity. “They were not out to get anyone to resign or to get anyone fired,” she said. “They worked very hard to uncover the truth.”

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