Teenage Investigative Journalists Make Shocking Discovery

A group of teenage journalists looking for information for their student newspaper quickly discovered there was something wrong with their principal's story of her work history and education.

On March 6, 2017, Amy Robertson was hired to be the new head principal of Pittsburg High School, in Kansas. Supposedly, she was vetted by a committee of teachers and staff from the district, selected with all the care due someone who would be so pivotal to the education of so many.

At first, the staff of Booster Redux, the student newspaper at PHS, just wanted more details to write a bio of their incoming principal. But even that preliminary, casual research began immediately to turn up things that didn’t quite make sense.

“There were some things that just didn’t quite add up,” said Connor Balthazor in an interview with the Washington Post. Balthazor, 17 and a junior at PHS, is a reporter at Booster Redux. Just scratching the surface, they quickly discovered that Corllins University, the private school where Robertson’s CV claimed she had gotten her higher degrees, was unaccredited. A little more research found many references to the place as an online diploma mill. It had no physical address, and appeared to simply sell official-looking diplomas.

Furthermore, Robertson’s work history was unverifiable. She claimed to have spent more than two decades in Dubai as the CEO of an education consulting firm, but that firm, Atticus I S Consultants, only seemed to exist as a single, nearly empty Facebook page.

The student newspaper staff spent weeks chasing down details, tracking down who to talk to in far-flung schools and accreditation agencies. Their adviser bowed out, as she’d helped select Robertson, so they found another mentor in Eric Thomas, who directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association. And they interviewed Robertson herself.

Robertson did not take these students seriously, and refused to answer many of their questions. But by then, the school district had finally caught up to their students’ discoveries. When Robertson could not produce a transcript from the University of Tulsa, where she said she had gotten her undergrad degree, she resigned.

The faculty of Pittsburg High School has so far had no comment on how so many massive deceptions were able to slide past their selection committee. But they intend to honor the students who saved them from their own mistake.

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