Battling the “Snitch” Stigma

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

An incident at school a few weeks ago has served to highlight the issue of “snitching” at my school, especially with our intermediate/middle school students.  A parent called our office to bring to our attention some activity with a few girls that raised serious concerns.  This mother’s son has now been battling the snitch label, to the point where he’s been threatened at school and online.  He was terrified to come back to school and dreads having to face the girls and their friends.  I’ve had numerous intermediate students coming to me complaining that it’s “his” fault for causing so much trouble. 

I’m a Vice-Principal.  I can’t do my primary job half the time without snitches, and that is to keep children safe.  But I’m troubled by how entrenched this mindset is in our students, and it begins at such a young age with children being scolded by adults to “stop being a tattletale”.  Children who are seeking the help of an adult should not be dismissed or chastised.  And yet it’s the same adults who shake their heads and bemoan the apathy of youth.
I joked with some kids that I’m going to start a movement to take back the word “snitch” like many in the LGBTQ community have reclaimed terms that historically have been used to oppress them. All joking aside, maybe it’s an idea… Why fight something that could be empowering?
Comments, suggestions and feedback on how you’ve dealt with the snitch stigma at your school would be most welcome.

2 thoughts on “Battling the “Snitch” Stigma

  1. Do you have some quiet way that students could notify you of potential problems? A physical mailbox or special email account they could use? If kids could get word to you without fear of retribution, you would get the info you need and the guilty parties would never know who turned them in… I’d announce it publicly, in a fun way, and encourage students to KISS (Keep It Safe, Students). I just made that up – is it ridiculously corny?? Maybe because I work with younger kids… 🙂 Good luck!

  2. Hi Patti – I like the email idea – very private. Kids who are willing to do what’s right in a confidential way will surely use it. My biggest concern is for the students who, despite all these precautions, will turn a blind eye anyway as the culture of the anti-snitch is so deeply rooted in them.
    Thank you for your ideas!

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