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Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charge 798

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-takes-real-effort-to-be-this-wrong dept.
An anonymous reader tips news of an incident in a Pennsylvania high school in which a student, Christian Stanfield, was being bullied on a regular basis. He used a tablet to make an audio recording of the bullies for the purpose of showing his mother how bad it was. She was shocked, and she called school officials to tell them what was going on. The officials brought in a police lieutenant — but not to deal with the bullies. Instead, the officer interrogated Stanfield and made him delete the recording. The officer then threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct, and Stanfield was forced to testify before a magistrate, who found him guilty. Stanfield's mother said, "Christian's willingness to advocate in a non-violent manner should be championed as a turning point. If Mr. Milburn and the South Fayette school district really want to do the right thing, they would recognized that their zero-tolerance policies and overemphasis on academics and athletics have practically eliminated social and emotional functioning from school culture."

Update: 04/17 04:36 GMT by T : The attention this case has gotten may have something to do with the later-announced decision by the Allegheny County District Attorney's office to withdraw the charges against Stanfield.
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Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charge

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  • by killfixx (148785) * on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:13AM (#46765885) Journal

    This is why people don't like going to the authorities...

    Not only was his problem not taken care of, but he was actually punished for trying to protect himself non-violently!

    Fucking ignorant fucks!

    I usually don't feel this way, but as a person who was endlessly bullied, I hope they eat a bag of diseased dicks.

    Another person who will be afraid of authority.

    And, what if this kid commits a Columbine-esque revenge scenario? They'll blame it on some other bullshit, not their own lack of souls...

    FUCK!

  • by OffTheLip (636691) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:18AM (#46765921)
    Ordinary citizens face felony convictions for this while the feds do something similar and are combatting terromism to keep us safe.
  • WTF?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:19AM (#46765927) Homepage

    So, kid gathers evidence of bullying by other kids, gets charged?

    That is insane.

    So, if I take a video of someone stealing my car, would I get arrested? Under what circumstances could I do that and not be charged? WTF doesn't gathering evidence of bullying get an exemption from wiretap laws?

    Whatever law enforcement and officers of the court were involved in this are total morons. This makes no sense at all.

  • Charge the officer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:26AM (#46765977)

    Tampering with evidence, intimidating a witness, and dereliction of duty. Under no circumstances should he have ordered the child to delete the recording. If there was a felony charge to be made, it was his duty to make it. Ordering and then overseeing the destruction of evidence to that effect is actionable.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:30AM (#46766005) Journal

    And, what if this kid commits a Columbine-esque revenge scenario?

    Appropriately, the page with TFA has an ad encouraging me to "Win an AR-15 from Sebastian Ammo". Google is getting scary...

    As for the action taken by the school, one really has to wonder as to what kind of cretins make up the school administration. And what they could possibly have hoped to achieve by filing charges, other than a nasty (and well deserved) publicity backlash? Although for a society run by lawyers, that's perhaps what one would expect. Squeaky wheel gets a beating, and a teenager gets hauled in front of a judge on charges of "disorderly conduct" in a school. Seriously... Can any of the officials involved in this case look in the mirror and tell themselves that they are doing the Right Thing?

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:34AM (#46766043)

    He'll either:
      - Go Columbine.
      - Learn to cope.
      - Pay an illegal immigrant $100 to stab the bully in the kidney.

    The third option is the safest one as long as he's smart enough to find a way to not leave a trace about the contract.

    I'm not sure which option produces a better society as a result.

  • Re:WTF?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:35AM (#46766053)

    So, kid gathers evidence of bullying by other kids, gets charged?

    When bullies grow up, they become policemen. The police protect their own.

  • by SlurpingGreen (1589607) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:36AM (#46766059)

    I was assaulted once by a kid twice my size in middle school. He was harassing a group of 5 girls, taking their bags and throwing them on the ground. I asked him, "Why are you being such an asshole? Why don't you just leave them alone?" He punched me in the back of the head when I turned to walk away, then took about 12 swings at my face while sitting on top of me. I never hit him at all, just deflected most of his attacks.

    The next day, the school administrator gave both of us detention for a week. He said I shouldn't have used foul language.

    I think there's a kind of deep inability on the part of adults to distinguish between rough play that got a little out of hand and a bully who's completely out of control. I can't see any school policy fixing that.

  • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:37AM (#46766063)

    The problem wasn't taken care of because the first priority of schools officials isn't to protect the students, it's to protect the school (and their jobs). They wanted the recording deleted before it could get out and embarrass them. The police just helped them.

  • Re:WTF?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:41AM (#46766115)

    Reason enough to end the life of bullies early on. Killing a policeman can really get you into trouble.

  • Re:sickening (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheP4st (1164315) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:41AM (#46766117)

    And a very strong reason why we won't be sending our child to public schools.

    Do you really think that just because a school is private bullying automagically will cease to happen? Allow me to burst that bubble [theguardian.com] for you.

    A private school for children of Sweden's wealthy elite has been shut down following accusations that boys were burned with hot irons by older pupils.
    The latest allegations about severe bullying at Lundsberg boarding school emerged at the weekend after one of the boys was taken to hospital and the police were informed. Nine boys were involved in the assault, police said.
    Following a visit to the school in rural Värmland, in south-west Sweden, inspectors announced its immediate closure until measures are taken to prevent abuse.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:47AM (#46766175) Homepage
    because this is how you get school shootings. Or in Pennsylvanias recent case, school stabbings. When you strip a person of their safety, and offer them no recourse, they become hard. They become determined with nothing to lose. They adopt these horriffic scorched earth tactics because nothing you say or do is consistent or fair, so the outcome and result of their actions is no longer relevant. And the saddest part is in the aftermath.

    people will wonder how they could have helped, what caused it, and why this happened. Gun nuts will bark about bullet proof blackboards and guns for teachers. Parents will entirely miss the point and call for tougher gun laws. No one will stop to consider students or kids for that matter as real people.
  • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:52AM (#46766235)
    Yeah, that is the thing that drives me crazy about all the talk about bullying in schools. Schools (and police) pretty much never acknowledge the role they play in strengthening the bullies' hands or even actively participating.

    The worst bullying cases I have known involved teachers joining in, reenforcing the idea that the victim deserves it or is simply being shown their proper social place. And sadly the whole myth that bullies are some broken losers really makes things more difficult since most of them simply have a higher social standing in the school and are acting as their peers feel is appropriate.
  • Re:WTF?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:54AM (#46766257) Homepage

    Yes, the kid got charged because he violated Pennsylvania's wiretapping and recording laws. Pennsylvania is a two-party consent state so both parties to the conversation must consent before a recording can be made.

    Yeah, and supposedly this school has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying.

    And according to TFA, the bullying was happening in the class room, with a teacher present. Which means the school had more or less abandoned their role in policing this, and the kid was left with no other recourse.

    Shortly thereafter, a loud noise is heard on the recording, which her son explained was a book being slammed down next to him after a student pretended to hit him in the head with it. When the teacher yells, the student exclaims, "What? I was just trying to scare him!" A group of boys are heard laughing.

    What teacher can't be watching this in their own classroom and NOT understand that bullying was happening?

    If the teacher who was physically in the room wasn't doing anything, WTF good is telling the school about it? Because the school is either indifferent, clueless, or incompetent to address the issue.

    And the officer involved?? I would also say was incompetent or indifferent:

    He later answered as to why he thought the disorderly conduct charge applied to this case by saying, "Because his (the student's) actions - he engaged in actions which served no legitimate purpose." He then read the statute as, "Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by acts which serve no legitimate purpose."

    I would say the legitimate purpose was to demonstrate that the bullying was, in fact happening, was happening while there was a teacher present, and that nothing at all was being done about it. He certainly didn't create a "hazardous or physically offensive condition". Sorry, but I think the cop was a fucking idiot.

    I'm inclined to agree with the lawyer on this one. The police misapplied the statute here, forced the kid to destroy the evidence, and then didn't do a single thing about the problem.

    And people wonder why kids go into school with guns? I can't even believe the story has a link to a contest to win an AR-15.

    I read this whole story as a complete failure of the police and school to understand and deal with the actual issue here.

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:57AM (#46766297)
    Here's the thing: Everyone has been bullied at some point in their life. Not all children are prone to it, but there is always a bigger kid prone to intimidation tactics when growing up.

    Kids live by the law of the playground jungle when adult supervision and rules are absent from the equation. It is ingrained into us as some form of social stepping stone, the animal in each of us at work, attempting dominance and security for an insecure bully.

    There is a time honored civil process in which we attempt to retrain our young into civilized little pricks. Picking on the weak is wrong, and you don't get to take advantage of a fellow human because you're physically or mentally able to do so.

    Everyone is small and helpless early, and many are old and helpless late in life. These rules benefit us all, and what happened here sends precisely the wrong message.

  • by hattig (47930) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @08:58AM (#46766313) Journal

    Most likely the bullies are members of the school's football team, hence the protection afforded to them.

    So option three, but targeting the Achilles heel tendon or other sport-critical tendon/muscle, is a great option, in my opinion.

    Clearly the school has a bullying problem, and a control problem. It's a sick, diseased school run by weak people, and teachers too afraid to do their job to protect students from bullies who are on the school football team. This is something that requires state intervention, I presume the state has school inspection bodies, and the ability to enact punishments? I would suggest a ban in intra-school sporting competition for a couple of years until the school's curriculum has moved back towards education.

    Indeed, I think that US school sports is really weirdly venerated. I'd split the two up, schools can have basic sport, but clubs, etc, should be run outside of the school, maybe with loose affiliation, but having no influence on the school's central reason for existence - education.

  • by FilmedInNoir (1392323) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:00AM (#46766335)
    A girl got raped here a few years ago and later committed suicide. It would of been the end of it, if not for the divine intervention of Anonymous.
    So then people wanted to form a torch welding mob when the facts surrounding it came out, not everyone though, there was a smaller group supporting the rapists.
    So while that angry mob never did form, the pro-rapist group managed to carry out some assaults on people speaking out in favor of punishing the rapists.
    Of course, our fearless POlice step in and say they will spare no expensive or lethal force to protect these people, the rapists that is... the victim and her supporters can go to hell. "She deserved what happened to her."
  • mixes special ed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by colfer (619105) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:04AM (#46766377)

    The special ed kids with learning disabilities are mixed with the ones with behavioral/emotional disabilities in this school. In other words, people that get made fun of, and people that are a danger to them. Sheep and wolves. Must make the regular classrooms nice to remove both the slow learners and troublemakers.

    The same thing happens in homeless shelters, where it's hard to protect the defenselessly mentally ill from the bad guys. And prisons, where a lot of mentally ill people live due to the policies of our country.

    Another problem in this case is that the police and the judge are an extension of the school administration, and see themselves that way. Also, it is a small Western Pennsylvania school district surely dominated by athletics. Also, we don't know the full story. This could be the best school in the world, but I somehow doubt it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:17AM (#46766499)

    Why wasn't a copy made before showing the authorities? ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS MAKE A COPY!!!!

    Not only should a copy have been made, it should have been uploaded to "the internet" as soon as possible where it could never go away.

  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:19AM (#46766531)
    To this day I'll never understand why teachers were so blind to the fact that the bigger stronger "athletic" kids constantly harassed the weaker kids.

    You're lucky, since in your case the bullies were actually considered to be part of the party at fault.

    And the teachers actions are easy to understand when you realize that they're not interested in justice - they want peace in the classroom.

  • by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@gmail.STRAWcom minus berry> on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:20AM (#46766541)

    As children most cops and most judges were the bullies. For that matter, so were a lot of school administrators. They don't understand the problem, or that there even is a problem. I was suspended for finally hitting back in junior high school, and almost expelled when I did it a second time.

  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:27AM (#46766627)
    I believe you are describing the current post authoritarian decade that finds its declining numbers of leaders faced with the issue of self survival. The easiest way for them to do this is to point a finger at the weakest person they can quickly identify; then say that person is the problem to be solved.
  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:32AM (#46766683)

    My child was harassing another kid in school. It went on for months. The other kid didn't want to go to school anymore. It was a Big Deal. Finally, the parent called me because she wasn't successful in getting the school to stop it. I called the principal and asked basically "where the hell is your anti bullying policy" and got the same response. He didn't consider it bullying. As you said, "WTF?!?!?!?!". The first I'd ever heard of this was when the other parent called me. More parents need to get involved in schools. Show up at school board meetings. Read them the riot act when they need it. Campaign against the bad ones at election time and for the good ones.

    Oh, and you can bet my kid stopped that crap that day.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:38AM (#46766749) Homepage Journal

    I have the exact same ad! :)

    Wow, feels like foreshadowing...

    Why? Are you planning on killing a bunch of people with an AR-15?

    I think the word you're looking for, rather than foreshadowing, is "coincidence."

    Or maybe "irony," depending on your sense of humor.

  • by operagost (62405) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:50AM (#46766903) Homepage Journal
    It's time we allow single-party consent of recording in Pennsylvania. I'm not sure this issue will be the one that finally results in movement, but I hope it will.
  • How icky. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesandtiger (819476) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:52AM (#46766917)

    Is anyone else creeped out by how hopeful some of the posters here seem to be about the possibility of the kid "going Columbine"?

    I get it that many slashdotters feel they were abused by bullies when they were kids, but the fact is pretty much every kid ever has been picked on (and has bullied another kid) at some time in their childhood. Yeah, it sucks, and yeah, the authorities here should absolutely be taken out of positions where they can commit future injustices like this, but in no way, shape or form should revenge fantasies like "going Columbine" be casually thrown about as if yeah, that's something reasonable.

    Yeah, it sucks that some of you were horribly treated when you were young, but get the fuck over it already. If you still get overwraught to the point where you fantasize about killing people at shit that happened 10 years ago on a playground, you have problems and you need to address them.

  • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:54AM (#46766931)

    The police aren't there to protect the innocent. They are there to defend the criminals. I have witnessed this firsthand.

    Another example of the social insight of the Simpsons. Chief Wiggum wasn't wrong when he said the police are powerless to help you, not punish you. The police arrest criminals, whomever they perceive that to be. This may result in help to someone, but it isn't the primary goal. Dealing with the alleged criminal is their primary goal.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @09:58AM (#46766973)

    And what they could possibly have hoped to achieve by filing charges, other than a nasty (and well deserved) publicity backlash?

    Most likely they were defending the concept of domination. In their view, society is made of hierarchical power relations, and the only way to advance is to challenge someone above you. Bullying is a natural part of such system, used to establish pecking order, and it's "cheating" to expose it to outside judgement.

    Basically, the school administration approves of bullying because it helps perpetuate a system where they're top dogs, and consequently view any effective attempt to stamp out bullying as a direct threat to their own status. It's ultimately the same reason why some people like to shit on the poor (sometimes despite being poor themselves), or get bent out of shape at the thought of everyone getting a prize: if there's no way to divide people into winners and losers - or pure and impure, or whatever terms you prefer - the hierarchical system will collapse, and take with whatever part of your identity you have invested in status in it.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:00AM (#46766995) Homepage

    They are not there to protect you, never have been never will be.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:04AM (#46767057)

    1. Kids shoot up schools. Why schools?

    Because your targets are guaranteed to be unable to shoot back?

  • Re:WTF?? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:07AM (#46767089)

    There's no suggestion that the boy told his mother about the bullying, there's no suggestion that the mother contacted the school about the bullying before the recording was made.

    The teacher is present on the recording as well. The authorities had 'been contacted', since they were directly witnessing the events. There's no additional onus to rub their noses in it. The idea that a teacher feels the words 'cunt' and 'twat' being used in her presence are acceptable is absurd.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:24AM (#46767307)

    I was suspended once for simply running away from a bully chasing me to assault me. As if running away, was somehow considered "participating" in a fight. I'm not sure what is more infuriating, the bullies who bullied me, or the morons in charge of our schools. On the bright side, my parents made me volunteer at a soup kitchen during my suspension, which gave me an appreciation for poverty relief and non-profits.

    These administrators and the police officer involved should be the ones here, who are suspended. Ridiculous.

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:29AM (#46767369)

    I was reading my mother's Stephen King collection when I was a kid. She had probably forgotten that Rage [wikipedia.org] was in The Bachman Books. It was written years before I was born and even then my high-school years were before the Columbine / regular school shooting era.

    Even King says he is "glad it is out of print", something I just learned today. Odd, as I did not see the anti-hero as particularly inspiring. If I had been slightly more unstable, perhaps I would have thought so. It is amusing that today a kid that reads that book might be considered a deviant and locked up.

    Kids that are bullied always think of this scenario, reading about it might actually help rather than hurt. Now, writers will not touch this topic with a ten foot pole, leaving teenagers with less support. Talking is not going to help; try getting teens to talk about any important matters, let alone suicidal ones. Yeah, I am not surprised that it comes to a breaking point of school shootings.

    After all these years people will not admit that these thoughts happen and that kids help. Instead we have "blame the victim of bullying", "toughen up", and "kids will be kids." If Stephen Fucking King is afraid to talk about this subject, it is truly hopeless.

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:43AM (#46767523)

    Yep, this teaches kids. "Don't trust authorities, take matters into your own hands."

    I think we know where that can escalate to.

  • by shess (31691) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:49AM (#46767611) Homepage

    Here's the thing: Everyone has been bullied at some point in their life. Not all children are prone to it, but there is always a bigger kid prone to intimidation tactics when growing up.

    Getting bullied that once, for a few minutes, is kind of different from being frightened of school itself because you keep getting slammed into lockers, etc. In one case, a thing happened to you and you move on. In the other case it becomes a formative epoch in your life which you spend decades dealing with, if you ever manage it.

  • Wire tapping? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @10:58AM (#46767737)

    The kid needs a new attorney. From Pennsylvania's own site:
    The law does not cover oral communications when the speakers do not have an "expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation." See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. 5702 (link is to the entire code, choose Title 18, Part II, Article F, Chapter 57, Subchapter A, and then the specific provision). Therefore, you may be able to record in-person conversations occurring in a public place without consent. However, you should always get the consent of all parties before recording any conversation that common sense tells you is private.

    The recordings he made were all in the public venue. Also, while recording conversations in PA requires the consent of both parties, that is only for the purposes of meetings, phone conversations, etc. Otherwise, recording the school play or little league team would be a violation under the law in PA and it isn't. No, either the story is short on a critical fact, or a grave injustice has occurred.

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @11:00AM (#46767765)

    And the kid that is charged was being terrorized.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @11:18AM (#46768065) Journal
    Suspend it from foot ball league. As long as we value football trophies more than the mental health of the students, this will continue to happen.

    Even though the recordings have been deleted, the officials can be called in and to testify what they saw. The teacher who was allegedly present in these bullying sessions can be called in to testify. Collect evidence of bullying and have the school suspended for three years. That will teach them.

  • by Enigma2175 (179646) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @11:20AM (#46768107) Homepage Journal

    As for the action taken by the school, one really has to wonder as to what kind of cretins make up the school administration. And what they could possibly have hoped to achieve by filing charges, other than a nasty (and well deserved) publicity backlash? Although for a society run by lawyers, that's perhaps what one would expect. Squeaky wheel gets a beating, and a teenager gets hauled in front of a judge on charges of "disorderly conduct" in a school. Seriously... Can any of the officials involved in this case look in the mirror and tell themselves that they are doing the Right Thing?

    Article is bullshit. It says:

    "School administrators threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping before eventually agreeing to reduce the charge to disorderly conduct."

    School administrators do not charge anyone with anything. They are not the law and do not file charges or determine what charges should be filed. It sounds to me it is a lot more likely that the police determined that a crime had been committed BECAUSE IT HAD. Pennsylvania is one of the few all-party consent states [wikipedia.org] and it is illegal to record somebody without notifying them that you are recording. The kid DID break the law. If you don't like that law (I certainly don't) then get it changed but to whine about school administrators and police enforcing the law that is on the books doesn't get it changed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @11:37AM (#46768433)

    According to this web page ( http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/pennsylvania.html ) "Schools that receive federal funding are required by federal law to address discrimination on a number of different personal characteristics."

    I would like to know how to get this federal funding to not go to this school in Pennsylvania.

  • by stdarg (456557) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @11:49AM (#46768721)

    I think the reason is probably that common bullying doesn't look that bad when it's not happening to you. Verbal bullying is often quite funny to onlookers. Minor physical bullying looks like no big deal.. almost on the level of a prank.

    Probably another factor with administrators is that, as adults, the kids all look like kids to them. The difference between a bully and a victim to an adult is much less than to the bully and the victim themselves.

    That said, it's incomprehensible to me how a kid gets in trouble for standing up for himself to a bully. I just don't understand what's going through the administrators' minds. They are probably horrible people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @12:09PM (#46769137)

    Yup. I got in trouble for "picking a fight" with someone twice my size who abused me daily. I could not believe the vice principal was reprimanding me. I was bawling my eyes out in front of him, explaining how I was punched and kicked every day by this oversized kid. And there's this authority figure telling me not to pick fights and that I need to improve my attitude. 30 years ago and it still fucking pisses me off.

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