April 3, 2021


Dear Brandon,

I was in class last week and we were taking a big social studies exam. I care a lot about my grades and I studied SO hard. In the middle of the test I looked up at the clock and happened to see a student totally cheating! The teacher didn’t know it, and he ended up getting the best grade in the class! It’s not fair, and I don’t want him to get away with it. . . but if anyone finds out that I told the teacher, I’ll add “SCHOOL TATTLETALE” to my already-dorky reputation. What should I do?

Timid Tattler

Hey Timid Tattler,

I can see why you’re upset, and you have every right to feel that way! It’s totally not fair that you studied so hard and that someone else cheated to get a good grade.

I had to get a scholarship to attend Westchester Country Day Middle School, so I can relate to grades being really important. I take a lot of pride in doing good in school, but it’s not easy—it takes a LOT of work. So, trust me, the thought of someone skipping out on all that work and cheating their way to the top bothers me just as much as it bothers you.

I’ve only called out someone for cheating once that I can remember—it was when I was waiting for Nikki to change clothes for band practice and her little sister Brianna roped me into a game of something called Princess Sugar Plum’s Dice of Doom. The point was to make it around the board and avoid the “Doom Pit” spaces—marked as Nikki’s Room, Nikki’s Bad Breath, and Daddy’s Roachmobile. Every time Brianna rolled a number that would have landed her in a Doom Pit, Miss Penelope (her mischievous hand puppet) ate the dice. Brianna said that meant she had to roll again.

Okay, YES, there’s obviously a difference between cheating in class and Nikki’s little sister cheating at her own silly game and then blaming Miss Penelope.

But in school (and really, in life in general) cheating is a serious business. A one-time cheater might get a gentle punishment in elementary school, but when you get to middle school and high school and college and beyond, it can affect your entire future! I know it doesn’t sound like it, but you’re actually kind of doing this other kid a favor by letting him know, early on, that he’s not going to get away with it, and there are consequences.

In the meantime, here are a few ways you could deal with your situation:

  1. Ignore it. Yeah, I really don’t suggest this. It’s going to keep bothering you, and your teacher should definitely know about it.
  2. If you talk to your teacher, do it OUTSIDE of class time. If you’re worried about the cheater making your life miserable for telling on them, find a time that’s not right before, right after, or during your social studies class hours. That way, the cheater won’t necessarily guess that you were the one who told.
  3. If you want to avoid looking like a tattletale even more, you could always leave your teacher an anonymous note saying that you saw a specific person cheat on a specific test. Don’t sign your name (though if you have distinct handwriting, your teacher might figure out that it’s you and want to talk to you about it).
  4. Do what I said in number three, but keep the cheater’s name anonymous too. In this case, be prepared for a whole class lecture on cheating and the possibility of everyone having to retake the test (which shouldn’t be a problem for you, since you’ve already studied, but not everyone will be in the same boat). 
  5. Talk to your teacher about making time in class for study groups. You never know what kind of home life the cheating person has, and maybe he doesn’t have the time or environment to study like you. It’s possible that he didn’t want to cheat—he just felt desperate. Having more in-class study time or a rotating study-over-lunch group could be a benefit to everyone!

Bottom line: it’s not fair to any students when somebody cheats on a test.

How about all of you readers? Have you ever seen someone cheating in school or somewhere else? What did you do about it? Tell us all about it in the comments.