Yesterday, I mentioned the appalling ordeal of Christian Stanfield, a 15-year-old boy with ADHD who finally had enough of the bullying he'd had to endure for most of the year at his high school south of Pittsburgh since at least October. Back in February, he recorded several of his classmates bullying him in the middle of math class. However, when his mom showed the video to school officials, it was Christian who ended up taking the heat--in the form of a criminal charge for disorderly conduct. A local judge sided with the school and fined Christian $25 plus court costs. Read all about this travesty here.
Well, this story has a happy ending. Christian had been planning to appeal the judge's ruling in common pleas court on April 29. But late yesterday, he learned that hearing won't take place. The Allegheny County district attorney's office has announced that all charges against Christian will be dropped.
Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said his office is not involved in the issuance of summary citations but gets the case at the appellate level in Common Pleas Court. He said the single count against Christian will be withdrawn.Cliff Notes version: the DA rightly concluded that these charges should have never been filed. Christian was initially accused of violating Pennsylvania's law against recording people without consent. However, the recording showed several kids tormenting Christian in full view of his math class and teacher--which means there was no expectation whatsoever of privacy. But even without that to consider, there is one whopper of an extenuating circumstance--the nature of the bullying that Christian and his mother, Shea Love, say that had to endure.
"The behavior does not rise to the level of a citation," Mr. Manko said. "No one who is authorized to give advice on wiretap or school violation issues was contacted in our office by the school district or South Fayette police. Multiple attempts to contact the officer who wrote the citation have been made.
"We have not heard from him."
Christian, Ms. Love said, has been diagnosed with ADHD and an anxiety disorder. But, she continued, he also has a processing disability, which means that it takes him longer to process things in his mind.And yet, nothing seems to have been done about it. According to Love, the video shows that the teacher didn't even try to see if Christian was OK after a loud slamming sound was heard and one of the punks who was bullying him said, "What? I was just trying to scare him." There isn't a prosecutor in this country who could bring charges against someone for recording this type of bullying and still keep his job. Though I have to admit, seeing the administrators of this school have to explain under oath why they didn't do something earlier would have been worth the price of admission. Seen in that light, the DA did this school one whopper of a favor.
She estimated there had been eight to 10 incidents in his math class, which ranged from spitwads being shot at her son to hand sanitizer being thrown at his back to attempting to burn Christian with a lighter.
Christian has gotten a ton of support from his fellow students. Several parents have also risen up to support him as well. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a school board meeting on Tuesday saw school officials get kicked up, down and sideways by parents for the way they (mis)handled this affair.
This isn't the end of this by a longshot. Christian's lawyer, Jonathan Steele, told the Tribune-Review that he intends to file a complaint with the federal Department of Education about this incident--meaning that school officials are going to have to explain why they not only failed to protect Christian, but tried to punish him for standing up for himself. Additionally, the area's state representative, Jesse White, told KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh that he plans to introduce legislation that would allow a student to record bullying incidents and not face charges.
3:27 PM PT: Turns out that bullying is a systemic problem at Christian's school. According to KDKA, one of the people on hand to celebrate with Christian was Hunter Boyd, who says she was forced to leave that school because of rampant bullying. If there was any doubt that heads need to roll at that school, this erases it.