“People can take your possessions, threaten you, and even kill you – but no one can take your integrity – only you can give that away!”
There was a scandal surrounding the National Board Examination (NBE) that was discovered in 2013 which continues to play out today. There are some important lessons to be learned from this unfortunate situation.
It was reported in the Funeral Service Insider and on the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards’ website that (allegedly) the American Academy McAllister Institute (AAMI) of Funeral Service in New York systematically encouraged students taking the NBE to report back to AAMI as many questions and answers as they could remember after taking the NBE. This is clearly a violation of the confidentiality statements that test candidates must sign before taking the examination.
The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards (The Conference) filed a law suit against AAMI for their purported actions. Funeral Service Insider reported the suit was settled out of court and the terms of that settlement have not been officially disclosed due to an order to keep the settlement confidential.
It was also reported that The Conference invalidated the NBE scores of approximately 300 candidates who had taken the National Board Examination. The complaint filed by the Conference dates to 2013, so some of the 300 were already licensed practitioners. As a result, some had their licenses suspended. Others, not yet licensed, have been unable to obtain their professional licenses.
Allegations of a student cheating scandal are painful. There is no room in the death care profession for individual practitioners who cannot be trusted to operate with total integrity. Our profession is founded on trust. The families we serve need to be able to trust us. We are invited into the lives of families to assist at a time when they are most vulnerable.
It is even more disturbing when an educational program is implicated as influencing a breach of ethics and loss of integrity. However, the Committee on Accreditation (COA) which reviewed The Conferences’ complaint on behalf of the American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABFSE) determined “it is satisfied that the issues raised in The Conference’s complaint have been addressed and remedied by AAMI”. So, at least that chapter of this assault on the integrity of the profession is closed.
So, why am I bringing this up now? I am trying to illustrate one of life’s many lessons. There are several ways to learn a lesson. Sometimes we learn by personally experiencing a situation. Other times we can learn through someone else’s experience. I would submit that this is one life’s lessons where we should learn from the collective experience of everyone involved.
No one can take your integrity from you, you must willingly give it up. I believe we need to renew our commitment to operate with the highest level of integrity in serving our communities. We often hear “if you see something, say something” but how many of us can truly say “we’ve said something” when we “saw something” ethically amiss? It is much safer as an individual to turn a blind eye, but in doing so we compromise the integrity of the entire death care profession
Program directors, we need to renew our collective commitment to enforce ethical standards in our programs, reinforce our students, staff, and faculty. As preceptors, we need to renew the commitment to demonstrate to those committed individuals entering our profession to uphold the highest ethical standards. As practitioners, we need to ensure we don’t turn a blind eye to any ethical or integrity transgressions witnessed. Only by working together can we ensure that we’ve done everything possible to protect the public we serve, shore up our profession, and live up to our ethical obligations.
I believe most funeral directors have earnestly tried to serve the best interest of the families with which they meet. Most are compassionate, caring, honest, professionals who have dedicated a lifetime to serving others. I earned my license as a practitioner of mortuary science in 1976. Over the last 41 years I have always been proud to say, “I am a Funeral Director and Embalmer”. I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to earn the trust of the many families that I have served and hope that future generations of death care professionals will be afforded the same opportunity. We owe it to our successors to leave a profession that is respected for its high ethical standards and persons of integrity.
Hopefully, the nightmare will soon end for the 300 still living in various states of indecision. Time will tell, but I think it is about time this chapter is brought to a close too.
I congratulate the “whistle blower” in this situation. Whether he or she was a student, instructor, licensee, or the janitor doesn’t matter in the least. What matters is that someone of character from our profession had the intestinal fortitude to say something, when they saw something and because of that, I remain encouraged! FBA
Jack E. Lechner, Jr., CFSP, CCO, and certified in Thanatology. He is President & CEO, Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. He culminated his five-year tenure at Arlington National Cemetery serving as Superintendent. Retired as Colonel after 28 years of active duty in the US Army. Licensed in New Jersey, Virginia & Ohio. He is a graduate of Mercer County Community College Mortuary Science Program; Bachelor of Mortuary Science (Suma Cum Laude), Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science; MS in Logistics Management, Florida Tech; MS, National Resource Strategy, National Defense University. His military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal and two Bronze Star Medals, Expert Infantryman Badge, Rigger Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, Combat Action Badge, and the coveted Ranger Tab. He can be reached at 513-618-1923 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.