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.

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.