Chances are that most high school students are well aware of the phrase, ‘Snitches Get Stitches,’ and they probably have known it for quite some time. Many people probably learned about snitching back in elementary school when it was simply ‘telling on’ somebody, but the circumstances were much different. Telling your first-grade teacher about somebody who said a bad word may have caused other kids to call you a tattletale, but neither party really faced harsh consequences. In high school, however, consequences can be more severe given that students being suspended or expelled is not unheard of, and therefore the negative attitudes towards snitching are much more severe as well.
To understand these attitudes, let’s first look at what students think constitutes snitching. Clay Rosenthal ’17 defined it as, “Telling on someone for something that they didn’t want to be shared, and they’re telling this to some authority.” Scott Baker ’17 had a similar sentiment, adding, “It’s when you tell on someone for something when you didn’t need to.” So the general idea is that snitching is reporting somebody to some form of authority for an action that they believe did not need to be reported. So what about stuff that does need to be reported? Are there any circumstances in which snitching is okay?
It seems most people have the same answer; “Snitching is okay when someone’s at risk or when there’s imminent danger,” Scott said. Clay agreed that extenuating circumstances make snitching okay, saying, “If someone is being abused and they don’t want to confront their abuser, snitching is needed. But there’s no regular context in which snitching’s okay.” All of this can be summarized as the following: if somebody does something that doesn’t put anyone in danger, it’s wrong to snitch; if somebody is potentially hurting someone or being hurt, it’s okay to snitch.
While teachers, administrators, and people in places of authority might view these attitudes as troubling, they may be very useful. If students felt comfortable reporting every instance of people not using the crosswalk to get to Cindy’s, playing games on their Surface, or saying a bad word, serious complaints would be lost in the mess of frivolous concerns.