Twin Sisters Accused of Cheating on Exam Win Big in Lawsuit Against The School
Twins Kayla and Kellie Bingham are bright, personable identical twins who both decided that their dream was to help people by attending medical school. They looked forward to years of studying together at a great university and graduating together. But was there more going on in this story than met the eye?
Kayla and Kellie Bingham when they graduated from college before attending medical school
Accusation, Lawsuit, Reward
While they were studying at the Medical University of South Carolina, they took an important exam in May 2016. Two weeks later, the University accused them of cheating. They were stunned and angry.
For six years, they fought this accusation and finally won damages totaling $1.5 million.
The fight took a lot out of them, but they are determined to move forward with their careers and prevent this kind of trauma from happening to others.
In May 2016, Kayla and Kellie took an important exam in medical school. They were assigned seats at the same table, about four or five feet away from each other. Each sat with her laptop in front of her.
They were not only five feet apart, but their monitors blocked their views of each other, so there was no way they could look at each other’s work. They began taking the exam.
Two weeks after the exam, the faculty accused them of cheating. They appeared before the honor board of the University, frightened and confused. “My mind was racing,” said Kayla. Kayla was in tears and could not believe what was happening.
She feared the worst: they’d be dismissed from medical school and never be accepted to another medical program because of this incident. Their dreams of helping others through medicine would be over.
The Honor Council Hearing
The twins had to appear before the school’s Honor Council. They stood before a panel of many department heads and professors, all glaring at them accusingly. Kate’s head was spinning.
“There’s no way to process your emotions when you’re accused of something you didn’t do.” Kellie was sure the school would realize they had made an error with this accusation. Both girls knew they were innocent but knew their futures were on the line.
According to a professor monitoring the test results from a remote location, the Council told the girls that their responses to questions on the exam had been almost identical. He was suspicious.
When he thought the twins were cheating, he told a proctor to watch them. The proctor told the professor that he had noticed the sisters nodding their heads as if signaling each other. One sister seemed to let the other look at her paper at one point.
The Sisters’ Explanation
The sisters explained, “We were just nodding at a question at our own computer screens,” Kayla said. “There was no signaling, ” she added, and “we never looked at each other.” She noted that people had often commented on their identical mannerisms and body language.
“I never anticipated that nodding at your computer screen could be used against you — and confirmation bias is given when you’re showing regular and familiar behaviors at an exam,” Kayla said.
“This is Ridiculous”
Kayla contended that the accusation was ridiculous. The sisters didn’t have any of the traits that other twins claim, like telepathy or secret languages. They were raised in the same home, and spent most of their time together, but never experienced any special twin traits.
Some twins even feel each other’s pain and claim to know precisely what the other is thinking at any given moment. Kellie and Kayla explained this to the Honor Council, trying to disprove the accusation.
The Decision, Repealed
The Honor Council, despite the sisters’ explanations, found them guilty. So, they appealed to the Dean, who cleared them of the charge. Relieved that the ordeal was over, the girls just wanted to get back to their schoolwork.
All they could think of was how relieved they were to be free of this cloud over their heads. After going through this ordeal, they were more determined than ever to succeed in their studies.
Life is Different Now
Word had gotten out about the accusation of cheating, and they could tell that people had been talking about them, and no longer saw them as trustworthy. Other students posted about them on social media, and the gossip went beyond the local community.
The girls were devastated; their reputations were ruined, and they didn’t know if they could recover from what was happening. How could people do this to them?
Friendly, Loving Twins Shunned
The twins always had a reputation as friendly, kind, and loving to others. So they were distraught at the nasty posts. Now people seemed to see them as cheaters and liars.
They were uninvited to two weddings and ignored by their social circle. As a result, they lost sleep, had weight issues, and were depressed. They decided to leave MUSC in September 2016, with the Dean himself acknowledging that their social environment had become hostile.
Their dreams were in pieces after they left school. “It honestly killed me,” Kellie said. “I’d dreamed about being a doctor since I was little — Kayla and I wanted to help people.” That’s when they decided to file a lawsuit, which they did in 2017.
The sisters were not going to roll over and play dead. They needed to clear their names if they ever hoped to have a professional career in any line of work.
The twins decided to switch careers and become lawyers, graduating in 2021 and going to work in the same law firm. They chose to work on complicated defamation of character lawsuits just like the one they experienced.
“We did not want anyone to have to go through what we had been through ever again,” Kayla, now 31, said. “We switched paths so we could at least try and ensure that people don’t have to endure what we did.”
It took five years for the case to come to trial in Charleston. The defense lawyer presented records proving that the twins had received nearly identical scores in the past.
Their college professor even wrote a letter about an exam he had supervised for which they had almost identical answers. But they had been sitting across the room from each other. It was ridiculous to think they cheated.
The Psychologist Testifies
Dr. Nancy Segal is a psychologist specializing in twin behavior at the Twin Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton. She gave some of the most critical testimony. She said she would have been surprised if the twins had NOT gotten similar scores.
Dr. Segal testified that cheating complaints are common with twins. “They are genetically predisposed to behave the same way,” she said. “They’ve been raised the same and are natural partners in the same environment.”
After testifying that the medical school hadn’t considered “the impact of the corresponding genetic profiles” when they were taken before the Honor Council, it was time for the verdict.
The verdict came in – the decision stating that the twins’ character had been defamed and had caused them considerable personal damage. They were awarded $1.5 million.
Their final statement was, “We’ve been living with this for six years, and we’ve finally had everything restored to us.”