April 26, 2014. Pittsburgh. There are a lot of villains in this story out of Pennsylvania last week, most notably the school’s principal. But unfortunately, the only person to be charged and convicted of a crime is the 15-year-old developmentally challenged victim of repeated and ongoing physical attacks. The child’s mother complained repeatedly to the school. But when the boy used his cell phone to record one of the daily terror incidents, the principal had him arrested, charged and convicted.
Mom and son, convicted for recording one of the assaults against him on his iPad. Image courtesy of KDKA CBS2.
The student at South Fayette High School in Pennsylvania has insisted all along that he’s been the victim of daily bullying and even physical abuse at the hands of fellow students. “This wasn’t just a one-time thing,” the victim told the judge at his criminal hearing in his own defense, “This always happens every day in that class.” He went on to explain that the reason he recorded the seven-minute bullying session was because he felt like nobody was listening to him all the other times he complained.
School ignores abuse
During the criminal trial of the 15-year-old for recording his tormentors and attackers, it was revealed that the boy’s mother had been complaining to school officials for nearly a year. One notable incident from last October involved students repeatedly shooting ‘spitballs’ at the special needs child who has a host of developmental disorders, none of which appear all that serious, but still stigmatize the young boy in the eyes of his fellow students.
As detailed by Think Progress last week, during the boy’s criminal trial, the school’s Assistant Principal Aaron Skrbin testified that the victim’s mother had complained to school officials numerous times over the course of the year. When questioned about the above spitball incident, Skrbin reiterated his refusal to classify it as an act of bullying.
School prosecutes the victim
During the hearing, it was revealed that Principal Scott Milburn had been aware of the ongoing terror campaign against the 15-year-old student, but failed repeatedly to do anything to stop it. Unbelievably, details of the abuse now show the Principal seemingly protected the teenage tormentors, never disciplining them or even acknowledging that anything wrong was going on. Complaints by the victim’s mother were repeatedly ignored and dismissed.
Faced with repeated accusations from school administrators of making it up, overreacting or just plain lying, the 15-year-old victim decided to prove to everyone once and for all that the abuse was not just real, but a daily occurrence. One day this past February, he used his iPad to record what was going on around him. According to a report by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, who heard the seven-minute tape, the bullies are recorded repeatedly harassing the boy with taunts and loud, startling noises. One assailant is clearly heard admitting that he’s “trying to scare him.” And at another point, they threaten to pull the child’s pants down and assault him.
The trial went on to reveal what happened immediately upon learning that one of the bullying incidents was recorded by the victim. First, school officials demanded that the victim erase the recording and destroy the evidence. Then Principal Scott Milburn called the police. But he didn’t call to ask for an investigation into stalking, assault, threats, intimidation, harassment or anything against the abusive students. Instead, he asked authorities if the victim could be arrested and charged with felony wiretapping for recording the attackers without their express permission. And that’s exactly what happened.
Conviction, outrage, reversal
At the conclusion of the criminal trial of the 15-year-old victim, he was convicted of the reduced charge of Disorderly Conduct for making the recording. While the court’s sentence either hasn’t been reported or it hasn’t been announced yet, the criminal statute the special needs child was convicted of calls for a fine and the payment of court costs.
The report from Think Progress also looked into the overall number of bullying incidents in America each year, as well as the response by school officials. The publication concludes by writing, ‘Statistics show that millions of students are bullied every year, and that teachers only intervene in 4 percent of incidents.’
The story does have a happy ending however, as just announced by the Allegheny County District Attorney. The DA confirms its office was never consulted throughout the process and the arresting officer has ignored repeated calls for an interview. The DA intends to throw out the conviction and expunge the teen’s record as early as this coming Tuesday.
“No one in our office who is authorized to give advice on wiretap issues or school conduct issues was ever contacted in this matter,” the District Attorney said of his fellow law enforcement professionals and school officials, “We have made multiple attempts to contact the officer who wrote the citation and the results have been unsuccessful. It is our intention to withdraw the citation on April 29th because we do not believe this behavior rises to the level of a citation."
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