Distinguishing between snitching and saving lives

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By Nasheetah Hossain

On February 14 2018, 17 were left dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Portland, Florida after a 19 year old gunman opened fire. More than 30 people knew of Nikolas Cruz’s alarming tendencies from his social media posts depicting weapons and dead animals, according to CNN. Seven others knew of his fascination with animal cruelty and were left wondering if reporting these instances could have prevented this tragedy. None of these people reported him until after the shooting.

Even when one sees warning signs of a possible threat, it is never possible to truly predict what someone is thinking or planning. The decision to report someone can be very difficult, especially when the person in question is a friend or when there is no certainty over what the aftermath will look like. There lies a fine line in deciding when to report and when to mind your own business.

The difference between what is connotatively perceived as “snitching” and speaking up about a possible immoral incident can be very difficult to distinguish. However, it is important to speak up when you feel it is necessary.

 Snitching is often seen as seeking personal attention or intentionally seeking to damage someone else. On the other hand, by letting authorities know about someone who might be a danger to other people or themselves, one might really be saving lives.  

There’s also a certain anxiety that comes with reporting someone, especially a close friend or family member. Is it really that serious? What if this ruins the relationship? What if it makes things worse? Sometimes making this decision can be very clear cut. If someone says, “I’m going to kill this person,” reporting is the safest decision. However, if someone makes comments along the lines of, “I’m depressed today,” or even “I hate everyone today,” should you tell someone? Maybe that person is having a bad day but what if it is the day that tips the scale? 

Some students may fear retaliation upon reporting. Often times, students fear the potential shame of being a “snitch,” which may affect not only how their peers see them, but also how they see themselves. No one wants to be the kid people are afraid will tattle to the teacher. However, sometimes one has to be willing to face that consequence to keep people safe. 

All in all, there is no clear cut definition for when or what to report. We need to be aware of the real world consequences and consider their moral values as well when they report a suspected threat. Some signs to look out for might include someone being treated poorly at school, people talking about death, posting disturbing social media posts, or behavioral changes such as isolation or aggression. 

Kids must also feel safer reporting in the first place. School officials and faculty must find a way to be more creative with their process towards resolution so that the mental, social and physical well-being of both the reporter and the person in question are more sensitively dealt with.