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Schools mishandle bullying victims
April 18, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Why has a Pennsylvania judge convicted a 15-year-old bullying victim of disorderly conduct for recording the bully in class? Apparently because it is against the law in Pennsylvania for someone to record a conversation unless both parties are aware they're being recorded.
In this one case, you'd think they'd overlook the letter of the law in favor of looking at why he recorded it, but apparently not.
The incident involved a 15-year-old boy at South Fayette High School in Pennsylvania. He recorded the bullying surreptitiously on his iPad and presented it to the school. Instead of helping him, the school authorities forced him to delete the video clip and reported his actions to the prosecutor, who threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping, according to the blog at Photography is Not a Crime at http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2014/04/09/bullied-student-threatened-with-wiretapping-charge/ Instead, he was convicted of the lesser charge. This week, the charges were dropped after the prosecutor finally saw sense, according to a story at http://www.wtae.com/news/south-fayette-student-to-fight-wiretapping-charge-for-recording-bullying/25507510
The bullying this kid suffered is vile and all too common. It is the sort of treatment that can result in victims suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and years of failed relationships and suicidal thoughts many years after they have escaped their tormenters. The bullies themselves also often grow up to have similar mental health and relationship problems.
According to the boy's mother, who saw the deleted video clip:
"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***) smells! No one wants to smell that (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 then heard laughing."
Also in the news this week is a story about a Lincoln, Neb. school that sent home a flier with fifth graders earlier this month advising them not to tell on bullies. Here are some of the other gems in this flier: "Treat the person who is being mean as if they are trying to help you. No matter how insulting or mean they may sound, be grateful and think they really care about you." How well do you suppose that would have worked for that poor kid in the Pennsylvania high school?
The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the advice in the flier, which outraged parents of kids at the school, is similar to that given by a national bullying expert called Izzy Kalman. The story can be found at http://journalstar.com/news/local/education/lps-bullying-speaker-s-advice-similar-to-flier/article—63e58a52-21e8-59c9-8901-fcec37129b93.html
Yes, charging the victim with disorderly conduct or felony wiretapping and teaching him to internalize self-blame and loathing sounds like an excellent way for schools to head off bullying. Or maybe it's just easier for adults not to see what's really going on.
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