In this day and age, when kids can be suspended and even expelled from school for pointing finger weapons or eating a pop tart into the shape of a gun, I thought nothing would surprise me when it came to stupid decisions made by school authorities. I was wrong. I read an article this morning that has be dumbfounded.
Several months ago in a high school in Pennsylvania, a sophomore student with some learning disabilities was being bullied by some of his fellow classmates. The student, who has not been named publicly, has been diagnosed with comprehension-delay disorder, anxiety disorder and ADHD.
The 15 year old had told his mother about being pushed, tripped, and nearly burned with a cigarette lighter by other boys in his class. They mocked him and called him names. The boy decided to gather some evidence of the abuse so he secretly recorded an instance of the abuse on his iPad, which he then presented to his mother. She, in turn, presented the recorded evidence to the school principal. That's when things went wrong.
Instead of taking action against the tormentors, the principal called the police who came to the school and interrogated the victim. When his mother arrived at the school she was told by the principal her son was facing felony wiretapping charges because he had made a recording in a place where there is an expectation of privacy. The police officer initially agreed with the principal but eventually reduced the charge to disorderly conduct on the basis that the student engaged in offensive actions “which served no legitimate purpose.”
The boy said he recorded the incident because he wanted to prove to his mother that he wasn't lying about the abuse. (How sad that he had to 'prove' it to his own mother.) “I was really having things like books slammed upside my head,” he said. “I wanted it to stop. I just felt like nothing was being done.” So he got the idea to record an incident so he could prove it and maybe get it to stop. Instead he's got a criminal record. He was actually found guilty of the disorderly conduct charge on March 19th.
Maybe it's me but I think his conduct was quite orderly. He could have taken a baseball bat and beaten his tormentors unconscious. He could have brought a gun to school and shot them. He could have brought a knife to school and stabbed them. Instead he brought an iPad and recorded them, and promptly got in trouble himself.
So let me get this straight... the government can wiretap American citizens and record, store and read your e-mails just because they want to and it's OK, but a 15 year old kid records his classmates bullying him in an attempt to get it stopped and he gets charged with a crime. There was no mention of what, if anything, happened to the bullies.
When I was a kid in school and learning to spell principle and principal I was told that the easy way to remember which one was which was that the principal was your pal. In this day and age it seems that's no longer true.