There is no question the theft of IP is rampant, whether it be downloading music/videos, faked academic credentials, patents on the obvious and/or prior art, or plagiarism, such does not make it right. What message is being sent when schools wimp out on penalties for such?
More so, what message is being sent when zero tolerance policies result in student suspensions, but only 3 days of detention and a single zero on an assignment is issued for plagiarism? Sure, helicopter parents will swoop down in a huge way, and it is likely such situations will end up in court, if a real penalty such as a F for the entire class was granted (and an F for all classes, if said student blew off the class in which they were caught). Granted, such a situation might well impact where said student could attend university… or more realistically might result in a delayed entry for a few years.
Then again, perhaps a student with a Swiss Army knife, or an aspirin is more of a threat to society than one who cheats. Perhaps society is really ok with plagiarism. Perhaps the cost and threat of lawsuits over teachers calling out a student for plagiarism is more important than to put very strict limits as to when lawsuits over such are possible. Perhaps its fine that the surgeon didnt bother to study anatomy as well as they should have? Most assuredly as society moves towards more and more specialized roles, knowledge gaps are becoming more and more blatant, but also less important… provided there is always another guy to step in to take up the slack.
Of course, what if the other guy cheated too?