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Maddie Baden, Trina Paul, Connor Balthazor
and Patrick Sullivan (Photo by Emily Smith)
The team of five juniors and a senior "revealed that Corllins had been portrayed in a number of articles as a diploma mill, a place where people can buy a degree, diploma or certificates," Schmidt writes. "Corllins is not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education, the students reported. The Better Business Bureau’s website says Corllins’s physical address is unknown and the school isn’t a BBB-accredited institution."
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"During the course of their reporting, the students spent weeks reaching out to educational institutions and accreditation agencies to corroborate Robertson’s background, some even working through spring break," Schmidt writes. "Smith, had to recuse herself from the story because she was on the committee that hired Robertson. So the students sought the help of Eric Thomas, executive director of the Kansas Scholastic Press Association, and other local and national journalists and experts. Under Kansas law, high school journalists are protected from administrative censorship."
Supt. Destry Brown told the Pittsburg Morning Sun, “I appreciate that our kids ask questions and don’t just accept something because somebody told them. And that would have been the easy thing to do. So I will always support our kids. The unfortunate thing is that internal in our office we were already working on a lot of that and eventually the chickens would have come to roost. They made it very public, which probably speeded that process. Things may have happened differently but maybe had the same result in the end. It would have been later, rather than earlier. I feel like they did a great job with the research they did. They shared that with me. We took some of that and followed up.”