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Post date: March 8 2013

A.G. Schneiderman Reaches Settlement With Dutchess BOCES Over Deceptive Practices

Dutchess BOCES Will Cease Claims That Welding Classes Comply With American Welding Society Curriculum

BOCES Employee Photoshopped Certificates To Appear Official

Schneiderman: When School Officials Engage In Deceptive Practices It Sends The Wrong Message To Our Youth

POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today a settlement with Dutchess BOCES regarding false advertising and deceptive practices. The accusations were leveled by the parents of a student who enrolled in a welding course at BOCES last year. BOCES touted in its advertising that it has an affiliation with the American Welding Society, a nonprofit founded in 1919 whose purpose is to advance the science, technology and application of welding worldwide.

"When school officials engage in deceptive practices it sends the wrong message to our youth," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "These figures are role models for our children and my office will hold to a high standard of conduct." 

In 2006 BOCES registered as an AWS School Excelling Through National Skill Standard Education, or SENSE, program. The SENSE program is nationally acclaimed and offered at more than 3,000 schools in the United States. SENSE schools follow a curriculum provided by AWS and, at the end of the school year, administer the AWS National Competency Exam.

Students attending Dutchess BOCES believed they had signed up for the AWS SENSE program due to the way BOCES promoted the course. Unfortunately, after registering its welding course with AWS in 2006, BOCES did not continue changes to the curriculum, nor did it update the AWS National Competency Exam.

Both the AWS curriculum and the National Competency Exam have undergone multiple changes since 2006. By 20011-12 school year, the curriculum consisted of nine modules with exams at the end of each, none of which had been incorporated by Dutchess BOCES into its program. Dutchess BOCES also violated another regulation of the SENSE program in that it never reported any comprehensive exam results to AWS. Because of this failure, students at BOCES could never qualify for a certificate of competence issued by AWS. The students were unaware of this failure.

At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, several parents inquired with BOCES about AWS certificates. BOCES obliged and provided the students certificates bearing the AWS logo. BOCES forged the AWS certificate by photoshopping the AWS logo onto the certificate it issued to students. The parents probed further and discovered, by contacting AWS, that AWS had not authorized the use of its logo on the BOCES certificate and that the BOCES course did not comply with the curriculum or tests provided by AWS.

A.G. Schneiderman also found false and deceptive BOCES’s claims in its advertising that students taking the welding classes would visit local production facilities in the Hudson Valley. There have never been such visits sponsored and supervised by BOCES. Students taking the welding class can work at such facilities while taking the class, but the students who work outside the class, secured their own employment.

In the settlement with the Attorney General, BOCES has promised that it will:

  • not represent or imply that students taking its welding classes will visit local production facilities unless that is true;
  • will not represent or imply that welding students will be offered the AWS National Competency Exam unless it is the current exam and the class has followed the current AWS curriculum;
  • will not photoshop the AWS logo on the certificates it issues to graduates of the class. The certificates it issues will only bear the AWS logo if AWS has authorized BOCES to do so in writing.

As part of the settlement with the Attorney General, BOCES reimbursed the welding course tuition for the one student who paid for the course. Tuition for the other students in the course was paid by the school districts which referred the students to the class. BOCES also paid a civil penalty of $5,000 for its false advertising and $2,000 for the costs of the Attorney General’s investigation.

The investigation and settlement were handled by Assistant Attorney General Nick Garin, under the supervision of Vincent Bradley, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office, and Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs.