"The Dead Grandmother Syndrome Reconsidered"
Frances Woolley concludes a nice piece with this:
I think some undergraduate students don't realize just how public and well documented deaths are. It's far easier to verify whether or not a grandmother died than it is to know whether or not a student was genuinely too sick to complete an assignment.
What about the rare student who lies about his or her grandparents' health? Providing false documents or false excuses is misrepresentation. It is a violation of academic integrity, and typically carries heavy penalties. It's also tempting fate.
So, in general, I believe my students. But I still don't know why so many more grandmothers seem to die during the course of an average semester than grandfathers.
To say nothing of the student of my acquaintance who had a grandparent die for five consecutive semesters.