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Deception Detection returns to St. Mary’s revisits St. Marys campus and offers plagiarism checks for teachers. The school got rid of this program 10 to 12 years ago, but it has returned.
Mary Elizabeth Autry revisits St. Mary’s campus and offers plagiarism checks for teachers. The school got rid of this program 10 to 12 years ago, but it has returned.

Quinn Ferebee was feeling anxious. It was February 7, the sophomore’s 10-page term paper was due, and had just marked it as heavily plagiarized. 

“[Turnitin] said [my paper] had 60% similarity when I submitted it,” she said. “It kind of stressed me out because I thought I might have actually plagiarized.”

But she hadn’t.

The reason flagged her paper for similarity was because she had already submitted much of it in a previous draft assignment, so Turnitin believed that she was plagiarizing her own work.

Ferebee was one of many sophomores to experience this phenomenon while submitting the final draft of their term paper, an issue that would not have occurred in years prior because just returned to St. Mary’s this school year. is an online tool that detects plagiarism by comparing students’ submissions with online sources, an archive of previously submitted works and online sources. Students submit their writing to via Schoology, and the tool then assesses the work for plagiarism and presents its findings to the instructor.

Ferebee’s English Teacher Julie Bielskis knew to overlook the flagged submissions, but the incident highlights the growing pains associated with this new technology.

For Caroline Goodman, English teacher and upper school technology specialist, the advantages to using are significant. She  believes that its value is not just as a method for catching plagiarized work, but also as a writing assistant. Along with detecting plagiarism, also provides grammar checks through Turnitin Draft Coach™ available on Google Docs and introduces students to the proper way of citing sources.

Turnitin markets itself as a tool that helps students learn how to use sources in their writing, so teachers are using it well and guiding students to use it well also.”

— Caroline Goodman

“Turnitin markets itself as a tool that helps students learn how to use sources in their writing, so teachers are using it well and guiding students to use it well also,” she said. “It could be used as a tool in teaching how to handle a source properly and giving students the option to fix [their writing] before they submit it.”

Head of Upper School Dr. Lauren Rogers similarly believes that the accessibility of this tool allows students to learn from their mistakes in dealing with sources to prioritize well-constructed and meaningful writing in the classroom.

“As students grapple with ideas and research, especially as young scholars, they are navigating how to share the research and findings of others in their own voice and also manage to cite and funnel information to create their own argument,” Rogers said, “Turnitin …gives them an additional tool to check and verify.”

Though St. Mary’s used Turnitin 10 to 12 years ago for plagiarism detection, the administration removed it due to a lack of usage. Head of Upper School Dr. Lauren Rogers believes that the resurgence of AI as a tool for plagiarism made bringing Turnitin back this year necessary.

“We are in the midst of the rise of artificial intelligence as a tool that’s easily accessible to pretty much anybody,” Rogers said. “St. Mary’s has had a long partnership with Turnitin. We haven’t used it in the last couple years, but they offered this new platform where you could run information through and check for sources because of the change in AI. We thought that this is something that would be a really nice addition to our classrooms.”

Turnitin began offering AI detection in April of 2023.

With the rise of ChatGPT in the winter of 2022, AI usage in the classroom became a lingering concern particularly within the English and history departments at St. Mary’s.

“Everyone was in a little bit of panic with ChatGPT,” Goodman said. “As we were thinking about what we could do, I reminded everyone that there are plagiarism detectors that schools can purchase.

Honor Council President Maggie Kustoff believes that can be a useful tool for faculty to ensure that students are doing their own assignments.

I think it’s helpful to make sure that everybody is putting in the same amount of effort.”

— Maggie Kustoff

“I think it’s helpful to make sure that everybody is putting in the same amount of effort. Obviously, there’s a lot of things on the internet that make it easier for people to cheat or maybe try to get out of putting in the work, so I think it’s a tool that teachers can use to make it equal for everybody and make sure everyone is putting in the work,” she said, “Plus, it’s helpful for students because if we start relying on AI to do the work for us, that’s not beneficial for us.”

However, the AI-detecting tool within Turnitin is not always accurate. 

Turnitin claims that its AI detection software has a false positive rate of just 1% (meaning one paper in 100 would be incorrectly flagged as AI-written) but others attempting to verify this claim have found a much higher rate. Vanderbilt University announced in August 2023 that they were disabling the AI-detection feature because as more and more of their students submit work, more students would be falsely flagged for plagiarism.

According to Director of Studies Dr. Kate Stakem, the honor council at St. Mary’s has not yet used as evidence in an AI case, but the software is available if needed in the future.

These false positives do pose a concern for’s accountability, but the administration still has enough faith in this new tool and its benefit to reassure that it is here to stay.

“It helps [students] understand how to cite and when to cite, and how to practice [this skill] in this really shifting landscape,” Rogers said. “[It’s] really important for us to adapt to give students a tool to make sure that they are being mindful and adaptive of the conversation [of AI] that we’re seeing in the newspaper and all over social media.”

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About the Contributors
Molly Kirshbaum
Molly Kirshbaum, Reporter
Sophomore Molly Kirshbaum is a second-year reporter on Tatler. Molly loves journalism because as a reporter, she can meet new people and express something meaningful. However, writing isn’t her only talent. In fact, she’s a dedicated member of the St. Mary’s soccer team. This summer, she stayed busy by practicing her moves on the field five days a week. In July, Molly took a trip to Boston, where she visited Boston Gardens and the shops on Newbury Street. In her downtime, Molly loves listening to country music by Morgan Wallen and watching cheesy romantic comedies. Some of her favorite movies are “Ten Things I Hate About You”, “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” and “The Proposal.” She also hangs out with her friends at the lake and chills with her labradoodles, Archie and Lucy. This year, she’s looking forward to taking AP Psychology and writing more of her amazing articles. 
Mary Elizabeth Autry
Mary Elizabeth Autry, Photographer
Mary Elizabeth is a freshman starting her first year on Tatler as a photographer. She has always been interested in photography and is excited to share her photos with others through Tatler. Mary Elizabeth has been a ballet dancer for around five years. When she is not in the studio or taking photos you can find her playing with her two dogs, Jengo and Romy, baking, running, reading or watching her favorite TV shows. Right now, she is a big fan of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” (a big fan of the books too), but she cannot wait for the new season of “Stranger Things” to come out. Although it is not Mary Elizabeth’s first year at St. Mary’s, she is excited to experience all the traditions that high school has to offer. Specifically, she cannot wait for her first Derby Day. Mary Elizabeth cannot wait for her first year on Tatler and her first year as a high schooler!

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