- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho high school student newspaper editor said she intentionally plagiarized an editorial because she wanted to send a message to State Superintendent-elect Sherri Ybarra.

Earlier this year, the Republican was accused of plagiarism because some text on her campaign website mirrored portions of her opponent’s website.

As a response, Ybarra removed the text and released a statement saying she was surprised but took full responsibility for what happened.

As first reported by Idaho Public Television, the Borah High School student newspaper published a copied piece from Boise Weekly writer George Prentice with an editor’s note explaining why: The staff felt that if the new head of schools could copy text, so could they.

The editor’s note didn’t use the word plagiarism or accuse Ybarra of plagiarism. Instead, it said, “You may find parts of this article similar to previous articles written by George Prentice for the Boise Weekly.

“We could apologize and say this is a mistake on (the) part of the Borah Senator staff,” the note read. “But if your new state superintendent was able to get away with it, is it even worth it?”

Ybarra’s spokeswoman Melinda Nothern said in a prepared statement that Ybarra did not plagiarize and does not support the practice.

“The accusation was a result of boilerplate language on the contact page of Ybarra’s campaign website written by her campaign web team,” Nothern said. “When the similarity in language was brought to her attention, she apologized on behalf of her web team employees because that is what good leaders do.”

Prentice’s editorial criticized Ybarra’s win in the November general election and focused heavily on the plagiarism accusation.

Borah Senator editor-in-chief and senior Harmony Soto, 17, told The Associated Press that she got the idea after wanting to write an editorial about Ybarra that would connect to students.

She sent emails to Idaho newspapers asking for permission to plagiarize their work. Prentice was the first to respond and give his consent.

“The one thing that stuck out to me during the campaign was when it came out that Sherri Ybarra plagiarized her website,” Soto said.

“I have spent so much time in English class learning how to cite other people’s work, learning just how big of a deal it is,” Soto added. “And then for someone like that to get elected, it seemed very sketchy. What does that say? What does that say about what standards we’re holding each other up to?”

Student newspaper adviser Michelle Harmon said Soto’s actions send a message that students are part of the political process.

“This didn’t come from an adult,” Harmon said. “This came from a senior in high school.”

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