Last night, I walked into my son's room to say goodnight. I found him with a black sharpie and a pack of stencils. He had used them on a white t-shirt, which now read, “Vicky is NOT a Snitch.” Vicky is not his friend's real name but the one I'll use to relate his story.
High school administrators accused Vicky of starting a fire in the girls’ restroom. She denied it and told them she was innocent. The administrators found new evidence that pointed to another student as the perpetrator of the crime. Vicky says they did not get the information from her. The administrators at this point went off track in their zest for a confession. Instead of telling the accused student that they had a witness, they told her that Vicky was the witness against her. In doing this, the administrators were able to get a complete confession. The guilty student immediately started her campaign of retaliation against Vicky both at school and via social media.
The school administration failed to protect the alleged whistleblower. It doesn't matter whether or not they got the information from Vicky. They still threw an innocent student under the bus to get the confession. This has created a chilling effect on the entire student body. When other students hear of this story and see the retaliation Vicky is experiencing, they will all think long and hard before reporting anything to the administration. Students will most likely decide not to report what they witness.
It is sad that negative stigma surrounding “snitching” still exists in today's society. Students should be taught there is honor in doing the right thing. The School administration had an opportunity to create an atmosphere of Honesty Without Fear. Unfortunately, they instead created an environment that is hostile to whistleblowers.
If Vicky did in fact turn in the other student for setting fire, she should be proud. It is not a bad thing to report a person for doing something that could have damaged the school and put students in harm's way. In fact if Vicky did report this student, the school administration should tell her she's brave - a hero in fact. And they should have never given her name to the accused. The administration should have protected Vicky.
This incident brings to mind the recent incident in which the SEC allegedly inadvertently revealed the identity of a whistleblower. Protecting a source, a whistleblower, is necessary to encourage others to come forward. Honesty Without Fear should be something we teach our children. It's a philosophy that schools should be encouraged to model for their students.
If children grow up in an atmosphere where they see that whistleblowers are thrown under the bus, they will be more likely to keep their mouths shut when they see wrong doing. Worse yet, if they grow up seeing this as acceptable treatment of whistleblowers, they may turn into the next generation of retaliatory employers. The purpose of this blog post is not only to explain to my son and his friends that there is no shame in being a "snitch," but also and more importantly to encourage school administrators, teachers and all those with an opportunity to educate children to send the right message by maintaining an atmosphere that encourages Honesty Without Fear. Teach your children well.