After being bullied for months with no help from his teacher, a 15-year-old Pennsylvania boy with disabilities decided to record the bullying on his iPad as evidence.
But instead of disciplining the bullies, school officials threatened to have the teen arrested for felony wiretapping. The boy's mom, a former Air Force Morse code operator, wants the judge's ruling convicting him of disorderly conduct thrown out.
After bullying went unchecked for months, the boy recorded the classroom behavior. But rather than punish the perpetrators, the school administration filed charges against the boy for disorderly conduct. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)
According to court transcripts, when the boy brought his recording to South Fayette High School principal Scott Milburne as evidence of the bullying, Milburn called the police.
Lt. Robert Kurta testified that Milburn requested they come take a report because he believed they “had a wiretapping incident,” at the school.
But by the time the police arrived, school officials had already forced the boy to erase the recording and filed a Saturday detention order for him. Since the police couldn't hear the recording, they charged the boy with disorderly conduct.
The boy's mother, Shea Love, transcribed her son's recording the night before he took it to the principal. Though she has asked to keep his identity private to prevent further bullying and backlash, Love and her son testified to the contents of the recording, according to Ben Swann:
(They testified) that the boy has been repeatedly shoved and tripped at school, and that a fellow student had even attempted to burn him with a cigarette lighter.
Last month, after doing research on several anti-bullying websites, he used his school approved personal iPad to make a seven-minute audio recording of his classroom experience.
According to Love, as the teacher is heard attempting to help her son with a math problem, a student says, “You should pull his pants down!” Another student replies, “No, man. Imagine how bad that (c**t) smells! No one wants to smell that (t**t).” As the recording continues, the teacher instructs the classroom that they may only talk if it pertains to math. 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."
Pennsylvania is one of 12 states in America that require the consent of all parties when making a recording, but, according to the Inquisitor, Love’s lawyer argued the recording served a legitimate purpose:
“We’ve shown that there’s a legitimate purpose for the recording. And there’s no physically offensive or hazardous condition that was created by this recording. I don’t see how a recording of students that are bullying my client could be physically offensive or dangerous to anyone, other than potentially the people that are bullying my client.”
South Fayette District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet was apparently unfazed by the defendants' story. She convicted the boy of disorderly conduct.
“I wanted some help,” the boy said. “This wasn't just a one-time thing. This always happens every day in that class.”
Love is now speaking out on her son's behalf; she wants Judge McGraw-Desment to reverse the ruling and wants the school officials to apologize to her son. The bullies in the case have yet to receive any punishment. The appeal date is set for April 29.
“The whole thing has been a horrible nightmare,” Love told the Tribune-Review Sunday. “This whole ordeal has made my son miserable.”
According to school records, the boy was a well-behaved student with no history of disciplinary action. He was previously diagnosed with ADHD, an anxiety disorder and a comprehension delay disorder, which manifests in a slower processing speed for information.
Stopbully.gov says 28 percent of U.S. students in grades six through 12, and 20 percent of U.S. students in grades nine through 12, experienced bullying, while approximately 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others in surveys. Only about 25 percent of bullied students notify adults.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter