A student at South Fayette High School in McDonald, Pennsylvania--roughly half an hour south of Pittsburgh--finally had enough of being bullied. So he recorded several instances of the torment he had to endure and showed it to his mother. Incredibly, not only has the district apparently not taken action against the bullies--it actually pressed criminal charges against the victim.
South Fayette police Lt. Frank Kurta charged sophomore Christian Stanfield, 15, with disorderly conduct on Feb. 12 when his mother confronted school administrators about students bullying her son on a seven-minute recording he took on his iPad one day earlier. The school's principal, Scott Milburn, initially told police he believed he had a “wiretapping incident.”Christian's mom, Shea Love, had complained to school officials about her son being bullied as early as October, but apparently those complaints went unaddressed. When she saw the video, she stormed into Milburn's office and demanded something be done. Milburn did something, all right--he slapped Christian with a Saturday detention and reported him to the police for wiretapping. After Kurta had Christian come in for questioning, he and school officials ordered Christian to erase the video and charged him with disorderly conduct.
Stanfield's mother said he was diagnosed with a comprehension delay disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and an anxiety disorder. He told South Fayette District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet that he made the recording to show his mother the extent to which he was being bullied, according to a transcript of the March 19 hearing.
“I wanted her to understand what I went through,” he told the judge. “I really was having things like books slammed upside of my head.”
Christian appeared before judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet on March 19. Based on the testimony from that hearing, there was no defensible reason for him to have been brought up on any charges at all.
He said classmates harassed him for several months, and even though he told his mom, he didn't have anything to show for it.Assistant principal Aaron Skrbin also testified that Love had complained about Christian being hit with spitballs even after Christian told him to stop--but incredibly, he didn't consider that bullying. Even more incredibly, McGraw-Desmet found Christian guilty and ordered him to pay a minimum $25 fine plus court costs.
“I wanted some help,” he said. “This wasn't just a one-time thing. This always happens every day in that class.”
Love testified that the recording includes one boy telling another boy to pull her son's pants down. The teacher tells them that if what they're talking about doesn't have anything to do with math, they need to stop talking.
Later in the recording, Love testified, there is a loud slam, and the teacher tells them to sit down.
Two boys ask, “What? I was just trying to scare him.”
When I first read about this on ThinkProgress, I thought this was something from the Onion. In what world can you possibly be brought up on criminal charges for standing up for yourself? Jonathan Steele, who is representing the family, wants to know the same thing. He's going to court on April 29 to appeal McGraw-Desmet's ruling--and is also making noises about filing a federal civil rights suit against the district for not protecting Christian. From where I'm sitting, Christian is owed the world's biggest apology, and at minimum Milburn and Skrbin should be heavily reprimanded. Those are about the only ways I'd even consider not filing a lawsuit if I were Christian and Love.