At H.D. Woodson High, ‘Thou Shalt Not Snitch’

“Thou shalt not snitch.”

That was the headline on a story in the spring issue of “The Insider,” the H.D. Woodson High School paper. The anti-snitching culture in many schools and neighborhoods is not news. But there’s something about seeing it captured in a survey that compels attention.

The Insider asked 107 students under what circumstances they would share information with a parent, teacher, principal, security guard or other authority figure. Woodson has about 450 students. Among the results:

--If they saw someone dealing drugs at school: 9 percent said they would speak up.

--Someone dealing “bad drugs that you knew would kill someone”: 23 percent.

--Someone with a gun at school: 24 percent.

--Someone with a gun threatening to kill a friend after school: 40 percent (the largest single affirmative response).

--Telling a best friend if they saw a boyfriend or girlfriend cheating: 32 percent.

--Someone stealing a teacher’s wallet: 14 percent.

The Insider did the survey to accompany an article on a school visit in January by U.S. Attorney Ron Machen, who urged students to come forward anonymously if they had information for the police. “It isn’t ‘snitching.’ It’s citizenship,” Machen said.

Some students told The Insider that the survey results might not be a completely accurate reflection of what students would do in a given situation. “Maybe the students filling out the survey didn’t want anyone seeing them say they might snitch in a serious situation,” said sophomore Demka Moore. “If they knew their friend might get killed by a gun, they might tell a parent or principal or teacher. There’s a difference between filling out a survey and real life.”

History teacher Nicolas Ojeda agreed: “I would think that in real life, most H.D. Woodson students would do the right thing.”

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.

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