DEAR ABBY: I am a ninth-grade honors student in a highly rated public school. I have never cheated on any assignment, nor have I ever helped anyone else to cheat. However, I know several of my classmates cheat on quizzes and homework assignments because I have seen them.




Abby, many of these students have better grade point averages (GPAs) than I do. In my school, the competition to become valedictorian is cutthroat. The valedictorian typically graduates with a 4.5 GPA.




It's frustrating to see the honor code at this school, as well as the hard work of honest students who are trying to make it to the top, undermined by the cheaters. Yet I'm hesitant to turn them in to the teachers if I see it happen again. What would be the appropriate thing to do?




"" VALEDICTORIAN CONTENDER, PLANO, TEXAS




DEAR CONTENDER: The thing to do is let the teachers and the principal know what's going on. If you are reluctant to do this for yourself, then do it for all the other honest students who are diligently trying to earn excellent grades and improve their chances of acceptance at the better colleges and universities.




Over the last 10 or 15 years, many people's standards of ethics have taken a nosedive. By "ethics," I mean doing what is right because it is the right thing to do. We hear about it daily when stories appear in the media about court-appointed conservators who cheat the frail elderly they were hired to protect, banks selling clients inappropriate retirement funds, mortgage brokers encumbering first-time homeowners with loans they can't keep up with, the theft and abuse of personal information, drug companies sponsoring "research" that influences the approval of questionable products, and educators who lie about their credentials.




Drivers speed and ignore stop signals if they think no one will see them, and residents of high-crime neighborhoods cling to a code of silence when innocent children and young adults are gunned down simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.




We are ALL responsible for creating the world we live in. And little will change in the face of ethical lapses and criminal behavior until more of us are willing to take a stand and do something about them when we see it happen.




Readers, your thoughts on this would be welcome.




DEAR ABBY: My husband and I purchased a home 2 1/2 years ago. Today we received an e-mail from the previous owners telling us they are coming here on vacation and would like to visit us and see the house again.




We don't want to visit with the previous owners. When we bought their house we never expected to see them again. My husband and I are very private people. How do we tell them we do not want to see them again or have them in our home?




"" INVADED IN HAWAII




DEAR INVADED: You are under no obligation to have any contact with the previous owners. E-mail the couple and tell them that a visit at that time is "not convenient" and a house tour is not an option.




Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.