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To Snitch, or Not to Snitch
When confronting an ethical dilemma,
what are the limits of loyalty?
explicit, the graphics disgust- that although an ethical choice
ing. Remarks about several sometimes can involve a choice
students and teachers predict between two “rights,” it also can be
that a gay student would die a choice between two “wrongs.”
of AIDS and suggest that a Start by asking:
married teacher is having an How might David make sense
affair. of this situation? What’s his
Several weeks before, by responsibility here?
way of an offhand remark Invite Scouts to list the
in a conversation, David had reasons why each choice is
discovered the identities of problematic. If David turns
the students who created the in his friends, he’s snitching
Web site. The three immedi- and breaking a promise. If
ately pressured David not to he doesn’t, David is allow-
reveal their names, and he ing them to get away with a
agreed. At one time, David serious offense.
was close to one of the three Try taking a poll: Who would
students. But that friendship snitch? Who wouldn’t? What’s
had faded. wrong with snitching? What’s
Now, the principal discov- wrong with lying? Ask each
ers a program that enables Scout to briefly defend his
him to identify each person choice; then, ask each to
visiting the Web site. He switch sides and defend the
is asking students to come other choice.
forward with the names of Talk about how each choice
the creators of the site. If no might affect the others in
one does, the principal plans this case. Ask: How might
to question each student your decision be affected by
who visited it. whether or not you were close

A David might be the only with one of the teachers or
student who knows the students who was humiliated
names of the three boys who on the site? Given the former
created the site. He can lie friendship with one of the cul-
and say he doesn’t know, or prits, how bound would you
he can break his promise feel to the promise you made?
LARGELY UNMONITORED AND Scouts that adult leaders Take the hypothetical not to tell. Either choice, he As a conversation-starter on
unregulated, the Internet never imagined in their case of David, a student believes, will result in disas- the subject of peer loyalty, ask
strikes some as akin to the youth. Acting anonymously, in a school district where ter. What should David do? if snitching is a form of dis-
Wild West. Ethically, it’s young people feel bolder his mother serves on the loyalty. Consider that David’s
dragging us into unexplored about tossing out hurtful school board. Three of his For Discussion definition of “loyalty” might
territory. and unfair comments into classmates create a Web site In discussing this dilemma, even include his loyalty to his
Twitter, Facebook, and cyberspace. But the Internet openly attacking some of the Scouts will observe that peers who were victimized by
other online teen hangouts isn’t always as anonymous as teachers and students. The David faces a tough decision the site. Does loyalty to the
pose serious challenges for it seems. language is offensive and either way. Remind them larger group of peers—all of
Ethics.indd 18 11/4/09 2:51 PM
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