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District Attorney Drops Charges Against Bullied Teen Who Recorded His Tormentors
techdirt.com ^ | 4-18-2014 | Tim Cushing

Posted on 04/22/2014 3:58:11 AM PDT by servo1969

Full Title: "Finally, Someone Acts Like An Adult: District Attorney Drops Charges Against Bullied Teen Who Recorded His Tormentors"

South Fayette School in Pennsylvania, along with a complicit criminal justice system, recently made headlines with its groundbreaking anti-bullying program, which apparently deters bullying by punishing bullied students.

Here's a short recap:

A bullied student used an iPad to make an audio recording of other students abusing him. He brought this to school administration who a) called in a police officer (after being advised by its legal team that this might be a violation of the state's wiretapping law) and b) deleted the recording.

The police officer, unable to actually bring a felony charge against the minor, settled for disorderly conduct. This charge brought him before a judge, who first stated her firm belief in the school's inability to do wrong before finding him guilty.

Throughout the entire debacle, not a single person involved even considered the possibility that the student had committed no crime or the fact that he had followed all of the school's prescribed steps for reporting bullying incidents. Instead, the desire to punish someone was obliged every step of the way.

Finally, someone within the justice system has chosen to act like an adult, rather than a bunch of clique-y, vindictive children.

Stanfield (the student) had announced that he and his attorney would file an appeal to that ruling but his fight may already be coming to an end. Today, Benswann.com has been told by Stanfield’s attorney that the District Attorney will allow the appeal to go forward but will no longer pursue this case.
More specifically, both the wiretapping charge (which was apparently still brought despite the involved officer's statement otherwise) and the disorderly conduct charge (which the judge found the student guilty of) were dropped.
A wiretapping charge against a South Fayette High School student who recorded two classmates bullying him has been dropped by the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen Zappala, said Judge Robert Gallo signed an order Thursday to withdraw the citation against 15-year-old Christian Stanfield.

"No one in our office who is authorized to give advice on wiretap issues or school conduct issues was ever contacted in this matter. We have made multiple attempts to contact the officer who wrote the citation and (the) results have been unsuccessful," Manko said in a written statement. "We do not believe this behavior rises to the level of a citation."
Odd that a police officer wouldn't talk to a district attorney. Unless, of course, a little bit of hindsight made him realize his every move fell between vindictive and buffoonish. Lt. Murka, who apparently considered both wiretapping and disorderly conduct to be appropriate "remedies" for a bullied student recording his tormentors, seems to have recused himself from the public eye. Manko, speaking for the DA, hits the heart of the issue -- one simple sentence that any of those involved could have deployed to call an end to this ridiculous situation before it ended up in front of a judge: "We do not believe this behavior rises to the level of a citation."

The school has now gone on record to declare it's everyone else who's wrong:
The South Fayette Township School District wishes to address recent reports in the local and national media concerning a student of the South Fayette Township School District. It is to be noted that certain information being disseminated by the media is inaccurate and/or incomplete.
Rather than clear up what exactly was "inaccurate and/or incomplete" about the reporting, it instead has chosen to hide behind "confidentiality."
The School District is legally precluded from commenting specifically in regard to these reports as the issue involves a confidential student matter.
Considering the story has been all over the news, it seems a bit weak to claim the matter is still "confidential." It would seem it could comment on any of the specifics already in the public domain. The story has gone nationwide, so it's disingenuous to pretend it's still a "confidential" matter.

While it's nice that the DA has dropped the charges and allowed the student to proceed through school without criminal charges hanging over his head, one wonders if this same outcome would have forthcoming without the attendant public outcry. Any adult can start acting like one with enough public shaming. But the application of a little common sense would have averted this incident completely.

A bit more troubling is one of the suggestions that escaped the lips of a local politician who showed up to the teen's "not a criminal" celebration.
State lawmaker Jesse White joined the rally, telling Stanfield he wants to name a law after him. He said it would close the loophole in the wiretapping law and allow victims of bullying to record it as proof for police and school officials.
His opportunistic heart's in the right place, but naming laws after people often indicates the new law is a bad one. This isn't an issue where a new law will fix things. This is an issue where no one in this chain of events showing the courage (and common sense) to stand up and ask why they were punishing a bullied kid for recording bullies.


TOPICS: Chit/Chat; Computers/Internet; Education; Local News; Society
KEYWORDS: arrest; bully; fayette; pennsylvania; record; school; south; student; wiretapping

1 posted on 04/22/2014 3:58:12 AM PDT by servo1969
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To: servo1969

When a police officer won’t talk to a district attorney’s office, he should be suspended pending an IA investigation.


2 posted on 04/22/2014 4:04:10 AM PDT by Truth29
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To: servo1969

Public school is a machine and the faculty is there to make the machine run. That’s their point of view. “Make the machine run.” Not ‘Is it right or wrong?’ That’s not their job. The Principals didn’t get where they are by worrying about right and wrong. They got there by making the machine run.

This student got caught in their gears.


3 posted on 04/22/2014 4:05:52 AM PDT by servo1969
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To: servo1969

how do you wiretap without wire?

what expectation of privacy is there in public?

recording information is just as much of a personal expression as emitting it. freedom of speech covers it


4 posted on 04/22/2014 4:06:12 AM PDT by sten (fighting tyranny never goes out of style)
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To: servo1969

How could recording a public conversation, that had zero expectation of privacy, possibly be considered “wiretapping”?


5 posted on 04/22/2014 4:12:17 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: servo1969
By the way, not that it should matter to the law but the student is special Ed.

So, this is a case of students smacking him upside the head with books and verbally harassing and tripping a special Ed. student right in front of teachers and the school doing nothing.

And, when presented with undeniable proof of the aggression, forcing the special Ed. student to erase it while they call the police to have him arrested for wiretapping.

And the cop being totally down with charging the kid with wiretapping but, since the proof was erased, just settling for charging him with disorderly conduct!

6 posted on 04/22/2014 4:16:31 AM PDT by servo1969
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To: servo1969

And THIS is how you condition the people to OBEY without thought

On the other hand this is also how you condition the people to rebel against the current “system”.


7 posted on 04/22/2014 4:20:39 AM PDT by The Working Man
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To: servo1969

There is a whole lot of CYA’ing going on here, nobody is guilty, everybody did their job, we were just following the rules, we have zero-tolerance for the nail that sticks up and so we hammer that student FLAT! Do these government drones have their common sense surgically removed or is the fact that they have none a pre-requisite for their jobs? It would appear that stupidity is hip-wader deep there.


8 posted on 04/22/2014 4:22:35 AM PDT by SES1066 (Quality, Speed or Economical - Any 2 of 3 except in government - 1 at best but never #3!)
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To: servo1969

The PRECIOUS public schools that MY CHILDREN attend would NEVER dream of doing something so mean. No, they listen to us parents. We see the teachers and the principal in church, in shops, everywhere. They are GOOD people and would NEVER hurt a child or put him through this. It’s only those OTHER SCHOOLS that are mean.

(how FReepers rationalize sending their kids to public school every day, yet still read this site)


9 posted on 04/22/2014 4:42:58 AM PDT by BobL
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To: servo1969
His opportunistic heart's in the right place, but naming laws after people often indicates the new law is a bad one. This isn't an issue where a new law will fix things. This is an issue where no one in this chain of events showing the courage (and common sense) to stand up and ask why they were punishing a bullied kid for recording bullies.

That's an easy one to answer. The school was doing nothing to stop the bullying, so when confronted with proof of the bullying tried to cover for its inactions by attacking the victim.

Unfortunately, this happens far too often. I'm glad the situation did not escalate to the point where the victim decided that suicide is the only way out; this has happened before in cases where the school would do nothing despite repeated complaints.

10 posted on 04/22/2014 4:43:02 AM PDT by exDemMom (Current visual of the hole the US continues to dig itself into: http://www.usdebtclock.org/)
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To: All

Homeschool.

Sending a decent kid to the current U.S. Public School Propagandizing and Indoctrinating System is tantamount to child abuse.


11 posted on 04/22/2014 4:45:13 AM PDT by LegendHasIt
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To: servo1969
"no one in this chain of events showing the courage (and common sense) to stand up and ask why they were punishing a bullied kid for recording bullies."

Until people demand that these school officials, the police, and judge involved be tried and convicted of this nonfeasance, as well as malfeasance, and publicly flogged as punishment, this treachery will continue in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

12 posted on 04/22/2014 4:56:11 AM PDT by Carl Vehse
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To: servo1969

A couple of nights ago on Fox’s The Five, one of the women, I believe her name is Tantaro, posted a picture of the principal of this kid’s school and reemed him.


13 posted on 04/22/2014 5:00:23 AM PDT by goldi
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To: servo1969
How can it be a violation of wiretapping laws to record yourself and your immediate surroundings while there are surveillance cameras just about everywhere today?


14 posted on 04/22/2014 5:05:16 AM PDT by BitWielder1 (Corporate Profits are better than Government Waste)
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To: servo1969

Surreptitious recording is absolutely legal if either party to a conversation or interaction is aware of the fact.

There’s a cliquishness behind what would be buffoonery if it weren’t for official heavyhandedness going on here, that says the bullies and school administrators involved, as well as the police officer, belong to some group to which the bullied student does not.


15 posted on 04/22/2014 5:12:26 AM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: exDemMom
That's an easy one to answer. The school was doing nothing to stop the bullying, so when confronted with proof of the bullying tried to cover for its inactions by attacking the victim.

I suspect that the actual problem was a white kid being bullied by black kids. The administration didn't want Justice Dept attention regarding disciplining too many black kids, and so decided to ignore it. The recording would make it impossible to ignore, so they decided to "make an example" of this kid.

They have won, even though the charges were dropped. The kid's family was punished by having to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees, plus the stress.

As far as the law, it needs to be changed so that any person may record any conversation he is a party to, for the purpose of legal evidence. Good luck with that, though. Corrupt politicians and bureaucrats will HATE the idea.

16 posted on 04/22/2014 5:14:48 AM PDT by PapaBear3625 (You don't notice it's a police state until the police come for you.)
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To: RegulatorCountry
Surreptitious recording is absolutely legal if either party to a conversation or interaction is aware of the fact.

In your state, perhaps. Not in all states. Some states require that ALL parties to the conversation give approval to record.

17 posted on 04/22/2014 5:16:25 AM PDT by PapaBear3625 (You don't notice it's a police state until the police come for you.)
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To: BobL
(how FReepers rationalize sending their kids to public school every day, yet still read this site)

People sending their kids to government schools are more interested in their kids taking part in property tax subsidized games and clubs. Especially in the suburbs. If the kids learn a little math and English, that's just a bonus.

18 posted on 04/22/2014 5:24:49 AM PDT by Orangedog (An optimist is someone who tells you to 'cheer up' when things are going his way)
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To: PapaBear3625

Wiretapping? Ludicrous possibilities abound. Better put stickers on all your windows in multiple languages regarding the presence of a video surveillance security system, otherwise thise breaking and entering can have you charged with wiretapping. Dashcam on your car? Same thing. Utter stupidity.


19 posted on 04/22/2014 5:24:55 AM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: servo1969

If you’re having trouble understanding the motivations of the cop and the school administration, consider that neither want THEIR bullying recorded.


20 posted on 04/22/2014 5:35:26 AM PDT by G Larry (There's the Beef!)
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To: servo1969

so whatever happened to the bullies? (as if i dont’ already know)


21 posted on 04/22/2014 6:45:24 AM PDT by camle (keep an open mind and someone will fill it full of something for you)
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