Feds accuse 6-year-old of plagiarism, strip her duck stamp victory
Reading the letters and online comments, it appears that other parents complained about Madison chiefly because of her father, who at 21 became the youngest-ever adult duck stamp winner in 1999.
But Mr. Grimm says his daughter did all the work, and his wife Janet said Madison even mixed many of her colors. Madison is home-schooled and spends time out photographing ducks with her father, or in his studio while he’s painting.
Rachel Levin, a spokeswoman for the duck stamp program, said the rules may not have been as clear as they should have been.
She said going forward, she didn’t know whether this means every winner in the future will face a similar investigation.
“I honestly don’t know. This all happened very quickly, it was a very unfortunate situation, it was a very hard decision for us to make,” Ms. Levin said. “Now we are presented with an opportunity — we know we need to go back to the rules, clarify those and possibly discuss some standard procedures when concerns are raised about winning art.”
The Duck Stamp Program rescinded Madison’s victory without calling her or her parents to do an investigation.
“Late last Friday, we received some information from the South Dakota Junior Duck Stamp state coordinator that we did not have before the national contest judging,” Laurie M. Shaffer, chief of the federal program, said in the letter. “We knew there had been a challenge voiced after the state competition regarding the painting, but we did not know the actual conversation the coordinator had with Janet.”
Mrs. Grimm said she has no clue what that conversation would be. The only extended talk she had with Ms. Gregory was even before the deadline for the South Dakota competition — well before Madison won the state and moved on to the national finals.
Ms. Gregory did not return phone or email messages left for her by The Times.
The South Dakota program website still lists Madison as the state winner.
The immediate money at stake is not insignificant — winning the junior stamp carries with it a $5,000 prize. But the prestige and the potential marketing rights to the painting are bigger.
But for Mr. Grimm there’s also a matter of professional integrity.
“They put out a national press release basically saying she cheated. It reflects badly,” he said.
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