Federal authorities have accepted additional guilty pleas in the federal criminal fraud cases arising out of the nationwide nursing school scandal. According to a Miami Herald press report, one of the crimes federal authorities alleged in those criminal cases was that the defendants arranged for instructors to “coach” nurses on how to pass licensing exams.
Federal criminal charges that nursing instructors coached students on passing licensing exams show just how overreaching those charges may be in any one instance. Teaching to the test may be controversial. But aligning instruction to the assessment is simply a best educational practice. And coaching and tutoring on how to prepare for and pass a professional exam is a legitimate educational practice and niche industry, not a federal crime.
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Federal Fraud Differs from Educational Coaching
Neither the Department of Justice press release nor the criminal complaints themselves allege that the defendant nursing school officials committed any crime by coaching students on how to pass professional licensing exams. Presumably, they knew better. A federal criminal court likely would not have entertained such a charge. Federal criminal fraud generally involves knowingly creating and distributing false and fraudulent materials using the mails and wires, with the intent that others rely on those false materials to their detriment. Federal criminal fraud has nothing to do with coaching for exams.
Federal Authorities Allege Criminal Coaching
Yet when reporting on the guilty pleas of some of those defendants, the Miami Herald press report states plainly that federal authorities blamed the defendants for coaching students on how to pass the exams: “The scofflaw schools provided a ‘shortcut' for students to avoid taking a nearly two-year nursing program requiring clinical work, national exams and certification, while instructors coached them on taking the licensing exams to practice nursing in a number of states, authorities said.”
Exam Preparation Is Acceptable Practice
For federal authorities to in any way blame school instructors for coaching nursing students on how to pass licensing exams, and to blame the nursing students along with them, borders on the absurd. The NCLEX itself offers abundant materials and advice specifically to prepare for the LPN and RN licensing exams, including sample questions and exam previews. Likewise, Nursing.com and many other sites offer elaborate coaching services to prepare for the NCLEX. A nursing student would be foolish to ignore those resources, especially when offered by the student's own school. Federal officials grossly overreach their authority when charging crimes for coaching earnest nursing students in how to pass a challenging licensing exam.
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