A 15-year old boy with ADHD, comprehension delay disorder, and an anxiety disorder recorded classmates bullying him in school. But instead of reprimanding the tormentors, school officials targeted the boy for wiretapping — and he was later convicted of disorderly conduct by a district judge.
Using an iPad, a student at South Fayette High School in Pennsylvania whose name is undisclosed, recorded a seven minute video of his peers trying to harass him. In the recording, two other students discuss pulling the victim’s pants down, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. And a loud noise is heard further into the recording, after which a student said, “I was just trying to scare him.”
According to the victim, being bullied is a daily occurrence. Speaking to South Fayette District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet, he explained, “This wasn’t just a one-time thing. This always happens every day in that class.” He revealed that he used the iPad to expose what was happening to him. “Because I always felt like it wasn’t me being heard,” the boy told McGraw-Dismet.
The high school staff knew about the bullying prior to the iPad incident. Assistant Principal Aaron Skrbin testified that Shea Love, the victim’s mother, previously voiced concerns about the tormentors. Last October, she approached the school when a classmate targeted the victim with spitwads — but Skrbin did not “[classify] that as bullying.”
When school officials learned about the recording, Principal Scott Milburn contacted local police on February 12, for what he considered a “wiretapping incident.” After approaching the boy for questioning, South Fayette Lieutenant Robert Kurta told him to dispose of the recording, and charged him with disorderly conduct. In Pennsylvania, the low-level crime is known as a “summary offense,” and does not typically result in jail time for juveniles. Nonetheless, they can stay on a juvenile’s criminal record. McGraw-Desmet later upheld the charges, fining the student “a minimum of $25.” The 15-year old was also ordered to pay court costs. Love is currently trying to get the decision reversed.
Statistics show that millions of students are bullied every year, and that teachers only intervene in 4 percent of incidents.
Meanwhile, teachers and school officials frequently turn to police to handle disciplinary violations at school, in what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. Last December, for example, a group of three African American boys were charged for disorderly conduct after police claimed they were blocking “pedestrian traffic while standing on the sidewalk.” The three students were waiting for a school bus.