IPS school board candidate Ramon Batts says mistake led to plagiarism

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
Pastor Ramon Batts is running for an at-large seat on the IPS school board.

Indianapolis Public Schools board candidate Ramon Batts said today he regrets representing work from three national advocacy organizations as his own in his responses to a Chalkbeat survey.

“That’s what happens when you’re doing things at 1 or 2 a.m,” said Batts.

Someone working for his campaign helped him compile the research before he sent in his responses, he said, and the citations to those sources were accidentally left off when he submitted the survey.

“It’s something I should have seen and caught,” he said.

Some of Batts’s survey answers are very similar to published material from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust, containing identical words and phrases but not citing those sources. Surveys from 10 school board candidates running this fall for three seats on the board were published Monday.

For example, Batts wrote about school discipline in his survey that: “’Zero-tolerance’ policies often criminalize minor infractions of school rules, which lead to students being adjudicated for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Research shows students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the uneven application of discipline.”

On the ACLU’s website, a page devoted to the school-prison-pipeline states: “‘Zero-tolerance’ policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in school lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.”

Batts is running against incumbent school board president Annie Roof and three other challengers for an at-large school board seat. Most of his survey answers appear to be original work. The copied responses were not intentional, he said.

“It was just a mistake,” Batts said. “It doesn’t negate my passion for IPS students and wanting to make sure they have the right leaders on board. I’m fairly disappointed about the whole thing. Certainly, I know better.”

An English writing professor and Writing Center faculty advisor at IUPUI reviewed some of the similarities, and found them troubling. David Cardwell, who has been reviewing student papers for 13 years, said that it appears Batts would have been well-served to credit the ACLU and other sources in his writing.

“If you take someone else’s ideas, it’s plagiarism,” Cardwell said. “If you do not give them credit for their words or phrases, that’s also plagiarism. If you paraphrase, you have to change everything.”

The similarities were first noticed by a Chalkbeat commenter who goes by Karynb9, who argued in the comments under Batts’s Chalkbeat survey response that Batts’ answers, without credit to any outside sources, would have violated the school district’s own discipline policy for its students, which lists as one of 29 serious infractions that can result in a suspension or expulsion: “Engaging in academic dishonesty, including cheating, intentionally plagiarizing, wrongfully giving or receiving help during an academic examination, and wrongfully obtaining test copies or scores.”

Karynb9 could not be reached for by Chalkbeat for an interview.

“Show this to any middle school English teacher and ask if a student making those comments in a similar paper is guilty of plagiarism,” Karynb9 wrote in a comment on Chalkbeat’s site.

Batts’ campaign volunteer, the former journalist and IPS spokeswoman Kim Hooper, defended him in a comment. Another commenter also came to his defense, writing that they didn’t “see anything wrong with using reputable research information as the basis for one’s platform.”

“Where is the plagiarism, Karynb9?” Hooper asked. “Discussion is plagiarism?”

Roof declined to comment about the plagiarism charges against her opponent.

Compare other examples from Batts’ survey to other published sources

Teacher Recruitment

Batts’s Chalkbeat survey: “Educators with multilingual and multicultural backgrounds can be advocates and provide crucial support for diverse students and families.”

National Association for the Education of Young Children position paper: “Individuals with multilingual and multicultural backgrounds can be advocates and crucial support for diverse young children and families.”

Parent engagement

Batts’s Chalkbeat survey: “It is the schools’ responsibility to extend a hand of mutual collaboration to families and initiate the process of engagement.”

Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust: “Doing so helps put the responsibility also on the schools to extend a hand to families and initiate the process of engagement.”

Correction: An earlier version of the story misidentified Kim Hooper as Batts’s campaign manager. She is a volunteer for his campaign.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”