Changing mindset to catch crooks and bullies

GIVING our children an avenue to anonymously report wrongdoing at school is a good thing, right? As it is, most adults are reluctant to speak out against the offences and misconduct that they see. They fear that this will lead to inconvenience, alienation or worse, reprisals.

Imagine how much harder it is for kids to tell teachers or school heads about other students being bullies or playing truant.

This is why it is a good idea that all schools must now provide a complaint box for tip-offs on student misconduct and criminal activity. And yet, some parents and teachers appear to be unenthusiastic about this move.

The naysayers anticipate, for example, that the schools and teachers will spend a lot of time and effort sifting through and investigating the complaints. Tied to this is the worry that some students will abuse this channel to throw in false accusations.

There are also questions about the procedures for handling the information that comes through the complaint boxes. The chief concern is that somehow confidentiality may be compromised, thus possibly leaving complainants exposed to backlash.

However, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid made it clear on Monday that students should not fear volunteering information on schoolmates involved in any form of misconduct. The information would be kept confidential, he added, and the tip-offs would be vetted by teachers in charge of discipline and, if necessary, forwarded to the police.

There is another element of doubt about the complaint boxes, and this is a rather curious one. Some parents apparently do not fancy the idea of their children playing a part in curbing bad behaviour. The attitude here is that the kids attend school to learn and not to bother about the disciplinary problems of others.

Hopefully, very few people think this way. This mindset deters whistleblowing and ultimately helps crooked people to avoid being caught.

Many kids grow up knowing that those who complain to the adults about other children’s actions are labelled snitches, rats and tattletales who deserve to be shunned. Peer pressure is a powerful force, perhaps more so among the young ones.

When people are against schools having complaint boxes, they are reinforcing the notion that we should all mind our business and not say anything if we witness wrongdoing.

The failure to recognise the importance of whistleblowing sends the message that it is okay to be passive and indifferent, even when we are in a position to try and stop bad things from happening. Is this what we want to teach our kids?

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