Nayeem remembers wondering before the physics Regents if it was worth it to put so much time into cheating on such an easy test. But he decided it was—especially considering the help he could use on the Spanish test. Studying, he says, seemed pointless. “It’s not like studying is going to change one point on my exam,” he says, “because there are things I am bound to not know.” He says he thought about it morally, too. “I was like, ‘There’s a ton of kids that are studying so hard, and here’s 140 kids that are just going to ace the exam without knowing shit, right?’ But a good number of people at Stuy have asked me for some kind of help.”
The only reason he got caught, he says, was that “it was too many people with one exam. It got really big, much faster than I thought it would. One day it was 5 people, and one day it was 140.”
Stanley Teitel told Nayeem right away that he couldn’t return to Stuyvesant in the fall, but Nayeem had all summer to fight that decision, which he did. Since last March, ironically enough, he’s been working teaching kids at a test-prep center in Queens.
Nayeem’s identity might never have become public knowledge if a friend hadn’t tried to help him by circulating a petition online to try to convince the school not to expel him. “He told me, ‘There’s a lot of people that do a lot worse in Stuy. There’s people that smoke weed, people that do drugs. True, it’s unethical, it’s an extreme breach of academic integrity, and it’s at an elite school. It is bad, but I don’t get how kicking you out would help anything.’ ” The DOE had previously acknowledged it was investigating the incident, but the petition exposed the scandal, and outed Nayeem.
Shortly after Nayeem got caught, he went home and remotely wiped his phone of its data; the school and the DOE aren’t commenting, but Nayeem has implied that they didn’t get the names of all 140 recipients of his text message before that. Initial press reports held that the school had 92 names. Later that number drifted down to 72, and more recently to 66. A few of those 66 students were cleared owing to lack of evidence. While at first it seemed that only a handful of the remaining accused students would be suspended, the DOE announced earlier this month that all 66 would be suspended—a dozen for up to ten days and the rest for up to five days, depending on what each of them has to say in a one-on-one conference with school officials. Those students will also have to retake all of their Regents tests. On the face of it, this seems fair enough. But Nayeem notes that the glaring absence of Regents scores on the students’ college applications (at least some of the next Regents Exams aren’t offered until after applications are due), combined with the fact that they go to Stuyvesant, would lead any college-admissions officer to assume they were on Nayeem’s list.
Nayeem says he feels bad about what may happen to the kids who are being punished. “I don’t want them to go to lousy colleges because of this.” But he insists his friends aren’t upset with him. “I’ve done a lot for these people, so much so that they know I have got good intentions.” He says his parents go back and forth about what happened. “Sometimes they’re mad at me. Sometimes they’re sad. Sometimes they’re very optimistic.”
Nayeem says he is ready to accept any punishment the DOE throws at him as long as he is able to go back to Stuyvesant. The worst damage, he argues, has already been done—a simple Google search will ruin him in the eyes of any college-admissions office. Why kick him out on top of everything else? He insists he’s learned his lesson. “The fact that I could have gotten kicked out, that changed my life.”
On August 3, Stanley Teitel resigned from Stuyvesant, saying in a letter that it was “time to devote my energy to my family and personal endeavors.” Teitel’s critics say he pushed kids too hard. “He saw the students’ stress as a sign that the school was doing what it was supposed to be doing,” says one teacher. Another calls him “a visionless bureaucrat who is sort of like, ‘Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And we know it ain’t broke because everyone’s doing such a good job getting into college.’ ” His defenders note that he did more than most administrators to curb cheating, and caught Nayeem.