A learning-disabled 15-year-old Pennsylvania sophomore was threatened with felony wiretapping charges for using his school-approved iPad to record being bullied by other students.
After his numerous reports to teachers went unheeded, the student, who has not been identified, decided to take matters into his own hands after repeatedly being tripped, pushed, insulted, nearly burned with a cigarette lighter, and generally bullied since moving to the South Fayette School District 20 minutes outside Pittsburgh.
“I was really having things like books slammed upside my head,” the teen said in a benswann.com report. “I wanted it to stop. I just felt like nothing was being done.”
The student told his mother about the bullying and, to prove he wasn’t making the stories up, recorded an incident during class with his iPad’s audio recording function, which captured students making mean and harassing comments and even pretending to strike him in order to frighten.
“According to [the student's mother], 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.”
After listening to her son’s recording the mother went to School Principal Scott Milburn to complain. Despite the school’s bullying policy which promises no retribution for reporting bullying activity, its electronic device policy which suggests confiscating the device and meeting with a parent, and policy mandating specialized consideration of disciplinary action for students with disabilities, Milburn went straight to local police and arranged an interrogation of the student with a police lieutenant, associate principal, and dean of students – without the student’s mother present.
Officials then forced the teen to delete the recording, and Milburn informed the student’s mother he could be “facing felony wiretapping charges” for making a recording in a place with an expectation of privacy.
The charges were eventually reduced to disorderly conduct, with District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet ultimately handing down a guilty verdict. The teen’s lawyers plan to appeal the ruling in court on April 29.
According to aattp.org, “This marks the first time that a bullying victim recorded abuse, and was later charged with a crime.”
“I refuse to be threatened,” the student’s mother said. “I just want my son to have a chance to bloom and not fall so far behind in a totally disruptive environment.”
The teen has since been removed from the special education math class, and the students accused of bullying have reportedly not been punished.