A staff crackdown and cheating scandal at a Manhattan mortician school, the American Academy McAllister Institute (AAMI) known as the “Harvard of Mortuary Schools,” portends to incapacitate New York City funeral homes.
The state Health Department last week filed charged against seven teachers, reportedly including the president and CEO Mary Margaret Dunn, for engaging in a “widespread conspiracy” to aid students in cheating the exam – which allegedly included circulating emails divulging test information.
As a result, the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards has disqualified the passing scores of more than 300 AAMI graduates, according to the New York Post. The state Bureau of Funeral Directors is said to have informed almost 100 New York morticians that they must re-sit and pass the exam by June 30, or apply for an extension by the end of the year, or have their license invalidated.
The investigation was ignited some five years ago after an undisclosed student notified the examining board conference that Dunn had issued “very specific and direct answers to the National Board Exam.” Subsequently, red flags were raised given AAMI’s notably high passing quota, in which 92 percent of graduates in 2013 passed the science section while 76 percent of those trained in other institutes made the mark.
However, other industry leaders have vehemently defended Dunn and AAMI, expressing concern that the clampdown may catapult a mass staffing shortage at mortuaries across New York City and thus compound the grieving process for loved ones who are not able to make timely funeral arrangements.
“The industry is already short-staffed by 30 percent. This action will only compound the problem. There is limited number of funeral directors already straining to accommodate the public caseload,” Robert Ruggiero, executive director of the Metropolitan Funeral Directors Association told the Post, asserting that the crackdown was simply a “witch hunt.”