Coming on the heels of a school shooting in Minnesota, Model High School in Georgia plans to further safety-proof its hallways by offering incentives for students who come forward with tips about potential criminal activity on campus. The monetary awards — funded by excess revenue from the school’s candy and soda machines — could range from $10 to $50 for a tip concerning the possession or distribution of drugs and could reach up to $100 for information relating to gun possession. However, by putting a price tag on crimes, students will be more prone to invade each other’s privacy, creating a more hostile learning environment.
Though cash incentives for snitching may seem practical, they implicitly de-emphasize the role of truth-telling in maintaining a safe environment. Instead of relying on snitches, schools should work to solve the public safety problems more proactively. Mandatory safety workshops and similar outreach programs would be a much better way to demonstrate the importance of in-school safety. The bribe will fail to stop gang violence — a student will not reasonably risk his life reporting gang violence to reap a mere $100 reward.
Much more than money, students faced with threatening situations need security and encouragement to do the right thing. Many schools haven’t developed transparent and organized ways for a student to safely report wrongdoing. If schools were to implement mandatory information programs that verse students on the steps to take when faced with a threatening situation, students would be much less reluctant to report an offense.
Regardless of whether the school board finds the workshop alternative compelling, bringing money into the equation certainly won’t solve the problem. If advertised enough, money in exchange for tips will only prove counterproductive — students will feel less comfortable because fellow students, effectively spies for administrators, will be much more inclined to violate privacy rights. Classrooms, locker rooms and bathrooms will have a new, intimidating atmosphere — one much more conducive to espionage than learning.
The school board should also consider the possibility of an increase in unfounded snitching — instances where monetary incentives encourage students to report false or trivial rule infractions. In the instance that a small monetary reward is enough to encourage a student to snitch, it is reasonable to assume that same student would find other ways to manipulate the payout system; namely, with false accusations. Although administrators are likely to catch on to this, it will become increasingly difficult to sift through each claim and hand out appropriate rewards and punishments.
It is indeed laudable that the Georgia school is trying innovative ways to keep its students safe, but using monetary incentives will only send the wrong message. The school, along with other schools across the nation, should look to more instructive ways to promote good behavior and a safe environment. Instead of the self-satisfaction that comes with divulging the truth, students giving out crime tips will be more likely to say “Show me the money.”