THE INTENTIONS of Westminster High School student government in establishing a reward system for tips on drugs and other illegal activity are to be commended.
The potentially negative influence on the school's education and social environment, however, argue for its demise. A "paid informant" system can encourage abuses and create an air of unwarranted mistrust in the school.
But Carroll County's school superintendent, Charles I. Ecker, who's reviewing the new program, hit on the basic issue: "If something illegal is going on, you ought to report it. Period." Without pay.
No other school in Maryland has such a program. The WHS principal and school system security coordinator approved Project TIPS program last month, finding it similar to Crime Solvers programs in various counties that pay anonymous tipsters for information about certain crimes.
But paying students to inform on other students is not the same. Juvenile offenders don't usually go to criminal court. The program could also encourage trivial reports, troubling retaliations, and suspicions that can pollute the school community.
Money shouldn't be the motivation for reporting illegal and dangerous behavior. It won't be at Westminster High, if teachers are instilling the values and ideals of good citizenship, respect for the law, integrity and responsibility.
Several rewards have been claimed for reporting drug possession and a set fire. These aren't harmless incidents.
The well-known history of drug tragedies involving Westminster High students or recent graduates should encourage everyone to stop the narcotics menace. A few dollars reward won't make the difference in that moral decision.
Student government, at all schools, should encourage responsible citizenship. Administrators must be supportive and accessible. But don't teach that there's a cash payoff for doing the right thing.