SB school board member apologizes after former staffer plagiarizes op-ed written under her name

Now that South Bend schools have students back in the classroom, the School Board met Monday...
Now that South Bend schools have students back in the classroom, the School Board met Monday evening to discuss a variety of safety measures.(Carly Miller)
Published: Oct. 24, 2020 at 11:50 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - With election day looming, District 3 South Bend School Board Rep. Leslie Wesley responded to allegations of plagiarizing a newspaper column. She told 16 News Now a staffer had written it on her behalf and that the staffer now has been fired.

A recent post in a Michiana current events Facebook group called to question Wesley’s October 23rd Viewpoint published in the South Bend Tribune. 16 News Now verified the claim that it closely resembled, almost word-for-word, a 2018 statement Jane Chon penned for the San Marino (Calif.) Tribune. Chon was running for her local school board in California.

On Saturday, Chon told 16 News Now she is “absolutely sure” she wrote her 2018 candidate statement and has “no insight on how [her op-ed] came onto someone else’s message.”

South Bend School Board President John Anella said he was caught by surprise on Saturday morning when his phone exploded with messages about the plagiarism allegations against Wesley, an incumbent school board member.

“When someone reads your article, they’re assuming those are your words, so you know, I can’t speak for Leslie. She can explain what happened. She’ll have the opportunity to do that for the public and for the board as well,” said Anella.

Anella said it’s common for candidates or board members to submit columns to the newspaper, though his words are his own.

“I said to my wife – well, she is my editor, but they are [my words],” Anella added.

Anella says the school board will have “a frank conversation” about the accusations.

16 News Now was scheduled to interview Wesley Saturday evening. Instead, she submitted the following statement:

"For the past four years, I have dedicated my services as a School Board Trustee for District 3 with integrity and transparency. Today is no different. I apologize to the residents and voters of South Bend and St. Joseph County for the Viewpoint article that was written on my behalf in the South Bend Tribune. I take full responsibility for any action of my campaign team, and the staffer who wrote the article is now terminated. Plagiarism is a serious allegation that is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. During my tenure, “I am proud of what we have accomplished since I joined the board in 2017, including helping establish the South Bend Empowerment Zone, charting a new course for our school district with the passage of the referendum, and helping our community through the difficulties of this pandemic.” Leslie Wesley

Jane Chon confirmed Wesley called her to apologize about the plagiarized newspaper column. Both women are running for their respective local school boards in 2020.

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