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Long Island Principal Accused Of Plagiarizing Yearbook Message To Seniors

ROOSEVELT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Yearbook messages are often composed of inspirational words, written from the heart, by a principal to his student body.

But as CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Wednesday, the words in the yearbook at Roosevelt High School in Roosevelt, Long Island, appear to be lifted from another school.

While school officials said it was a clerical error, others have alleged it was plagiarism.

Thumb through the yearbook, and you may think it's the wrong one. The principal's sendoff words to seniors end with, "Congratulations to the Albany High School class of 2013."

In fact, the entire message is nearly identical to words written by a principal last year in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Albany, California.

"I am appalled. It shows he does not care for the kids that he could not create something on his own," said parent Noelle Johnson. "He should not just be using anyone else's words for anything."

But the Roosevelt High School principal, Stephen Strachan, called the use of the message an "inadvertent clerical error," saying, "an unedited draft of my remarks was accidentally published."

He said he used the message from Albany, California principal Ted Barone with permission. But Barone said that is not exactly true – Strachan e-mailed him last week asking to quote him, not for permission to use the message verbatim.

Roosevelt students lampooned the incident by wearing "Albany Class of 2013" T-shirts Wednesday, but they said it is really no laughing matter.

"We would have gotten suspended for plagiarizing," said Roosevelt High School student Amani Meyers.

"The principal is supposed to be leader of the school, and he's supposed to lead by example," said Roosevelt senior Raymond Jones.

And then there is Strachan's message to graduates last year, which appears remarkably similar to an online address to 2013 Maryland seniors, and a website that provides inspirational sample messages.

"How hard is it to write, like, a little paragraph sending your students off? It's not that hard," said student Stephanie Pierre. "So it's very embarrassing."

But others gave the principal -- who has been credited with turning the struggling school around, raising grades and morale -- the benefit of the doubt.

"In a case where you're taking excerpts from a speech to address your students, and it gets out of hand because someone takes it upon themselves to send it ahead of time, I look at that as an error," said Roosevelt School board vice president Alfred Taylor.

Strachan has apologized to the Roosevelt community, collected the yearbooks, and is having them reprinted with money from his own discretionary fund. Strachan is donating $800 to cover the entire cost of reprinting.

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