Identical twins Kayla and Kellie Bingham have received a $1.5million payout after having their names cleared six years after they were accused of cheating on college tests.
The sisters were attending the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 2016 when the charges were first brought.
Now, in a defamation case brought against MUSC, a jury has found in favor of the Binghams and awarded damages for the torment they faced.
The saga began in May 2016 when the twins, daughters of former South Carolina Republican state Rep. Kenny Bingham, were assigned seats at the same table during an exam, Kellie said. Initiated.
She explained that even though they were only four or five feet apart, they couldn’t see each other because of their computer screens.
Two weeks after the exam, they were officially accused of cheating by MUSC professors.
Kayla recalls having to appear before the school’s honor board, saying her “spirit was racing” and that she was “sobbing and in disbelief that this was happening to us”.
She added: “There’s no way to process your emotions when you’re accused of something you didn’t do.”
Kellie believed the school would withdraw her request as she explained to the board that their grades had been extremely similar since they started as children and then throughout high school.
The twins got the same SAT scores and took the tests on different days in different locations.
They learned that a professor had raised concerns while remotely monitoring the results of the whole class, leading him to suspect that they had collaborated.
The exam invigilator was told to keep an eye on them. She claimed to have noticed the twins nodding repeatedly as if waving at each other and one had ‘turned over’ a sheet of paper on the table so the other could see it.
“We were just nodding our heads at a question on our own computer screens,” Kayla said, recounting Initiated that they had often been told that they had “incredibly similar” mannerisms and that she would never have thought it could be used against them.
She added that they don’t have “twin telepathy” or “secret language”, and they don’t “feel each other’s pain or anything like that”.
“There was no signage,” she said, adding that they “never looked at each other.”
Kayla told the honor board that the cheating allegation was “ridiculous”.
Nevertheless, the twins were found guilty and were forced to appeal to the dean, Raymond DuBois. After a painful week of waiting, they were cleared.
However, the damage was done. The news had leaked and the sisters became social pariahs as rumors spread around campus that they had been “academically dishonest”.
The gossip and recriminations that circulated online and in the media saw them shunned by friends and peers and de-invited to two weddings.
In September 2016, the twins withdrew from MUSC “on the recommendation of the Dean, due to its hostile character”, and they were forced to abandon their dream of going into medicine.
They filed a lawsuit against the school in 2017 to clear their name and regain their reputation. The fight brought them closer.
When the case finally went to trial, the jury saw their identical or nearly identical exam results in all of their school records.
A college professor said in a letter that in a 2012 exam they submitted the same answers, both correct and incorrect, while sitting at opposite ends of a classroom, which which made any collaboration impossible.
Another witness, Professor Nancy Segal, a psychologist specializing in behavioral genetics and the study of twins at California State University, testified that she would have been surprised if Kayla and Kellie had not achieved the same scores. She also noted that complaints of cheating against twins are “common” in academia.
“They are genetically predisposed to behave in the same way,” Professor Segal said. “They were raised the same way and are natural partners in the same environment.”
Kayla described the jury’s decision in their favor as “the greatest moment of our lives” and that the vindication saw “everything returned to us”.
Dropping medicine saw the sisters enter law school, and graduating in 2021 saw them achieve very similar grades.
They now work at the same law firm and want to take on defamation cases like theirs.
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