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Code of Silence

What goes on in high school stays in high school… Or does it?

These are not the 1980’s. It can be argued that the #MeToo movement has broken down many social barriers of past generations. However, certain codes feel as binding as ever. B-CC is not Georgetown Prep. However, many of the places mentioned in Dr. Ford’s testimony are right here in our neighborhood. What codes are in place right here, right now and what are the social implications of those codes? On October 2nd, Tattler staff held a forum on the “Code of Silence” at B-CC, taking a look at the unspoken social codes of teenagers in our area and the situations that bring them to light. 10 percent of the student body attended. In small groups, we presented a troubling—if all too familiar—scenario from high school life. Each group had to agree on the best solution to the problem. Then, the group had to convince an audience of 200 that their solution was the best option. Here’s what they said.

Sexual Assault

You’re at a party and see that a distant acquaintance of yours’, Kristina, is very drunk and clearly out of it. From across the room, you can see that she’s stumbling and slurring her words. Then you see Will come up to her and grab her waist as he whispers in her ear and ushers her toward a bedroom. Will and Kristina have had somewhat of an on and off thing going for the past couple weeks, as they have hooked up a few times in the past. However, you know that Will has not had anything to drink all night.

When it came to the topic of sexual assault prevention, many students were notably unsure how to respond. This scenario dealt with the grey areas of student safety: How does one respond to the possibility of sexual assault at a party, based on observation alone? In the end, students decided on a combination of indirect actions to protect their peer from a potentially dangerous situation. First, they would ask a friend of the girl about her relationship to the male guiding her into the bedroom. If the friend’s response did not clear up the situation, they chose to involve themselves personally—by pretending to “accidentally bump” into the girl and strike up a conversation, or even “act drunk” and cling onto the girl so she would not enter the room alone. However, most students agreed not to directly accuse the boy of sexual misconduct. In their opinion, it is not their place to make assumptions without checking
the situation out first.

Drug Abuse

Someone in your distant friend group decided that smoking weed wasn’t a good enough high, so they decided to try LSD at a party you were also at. They don’t react well to the drug and started getting sick, throwing up, feeling nauseous, and looking as though they’re having a panic attack. A couple of people in addition to you have noticed this, but are afraid to call their parents for fear of getting everyone at the party in trouble with their own parents, or even the police.

This group was quite large, maybe 30 or so people. The discussion started off slow and students had to be called on, but soon enough people started volunteering to talk. The conversation soon came to be dominated by “popular” seniors, obviously very familiar with party culture. Ultimately, the group agreed that they would need to call an ambulance or get help only if the sick teen was unconscious or unresponsive. In other words, the student had to be more than just wasted. After determining that they would call the police, they agreed on telling the host first so that everyone could leave the party and avoid getting in trouble with the police. They would then take the kid outside and call for an ambulance and wait for it to arrive. The group agreed that they would look out for themselves and the kid, but nobody else.

School Shooter

Recently you noticed that one of your classmates, Stephen, always sits in the back of the classroom with his hood on, and never participates in class or talks with any other students. One day, your teacher pairs you up with him for a lab. As you two work on the lab and you try to hold a conversation with Stephen, he keeps saying things like “everyone here is f***ing stupid anyway,” and “none of it really matters at all.” You notice that as he’s
saying this he never makes eye contact with you and instead glares at all of the other students in the classroom. You’re afraid that Stephen may be planning to do something that could harm himself or other students, but you are fearful to tell the administration in case you’re wrong.

Students decided that they would talk to their peer to get an idea of his behavior and reach out to his counselor to express their concerns. There are more subtle ways to check in on him or examine his behavior than triggering an investigation from the administration that might backfire.

Academic Dishonesty

You heard that a distant friend of yours had someone take their SAT for them and received a perfect score. Additionally, this student made up many of their extracurricular activities on their college application and ended up receiving a very selective scholarship that you and many of your other friends applied for.

Students decided that, since the person who cheated is not a very close friend, they would not snitch on them. They agreed that it’s not okay to cheat on the SAT or lie on college applications, but one has to choose their battles. If a close friend had done the same thing and they held that person to a higher standard, they would definitely confront that person about it, even if they would not tell an administrator. Students can’t be the academic dishonesty police for everyone, that’s not their job. The responsibility lies with the person who cheat ed, the teacher, and the college that they were accepted to, and it’s not on their peers to intervene. However, if another person told an administrator or even the college, they would view their decision as karma for the person who cheated. In the end, people who cheat will feel the consequences later in life and it’s not on students to bring them those consequences.

Racist Comments

After talking with you about the math homework in class, Ryan, the basketball team captain recruited to play D1 in college next year, adds you to a group chat where him and the rest of his friends from that period review homework and ask questions about what will be on the upcoming tests. But, as soon as you’re added to the chat, you see Ryan and his friends text a flurry of racial slurs, jokes, and images to describe many of your teachers and classmates. You assume Ryan is joking, as he has never exhibited this behavior in person, but he seems to text these things on a regular basis. You know that if you tell the administration, Ryan will definitely be suspended from playing that season and it may even affect his recruitment. 

These students’ would talk to him, one-on-one. They wouldn’t go to the administration, even if they didn’t know him. They don’t know his situation. They would take an approach more of understanding than of punishment. It is not worth ruining someone’s future or making them face larger repercussions from the administration. Unless he were attacking someone personally, it should be dealt on a personal level.

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