A high school sophomore in Pennsylvania who had been bullied all year by classmates with no help from his teacher decided to audio record the bullying on his iPad as evidence.
But instead of disciplining the bullies, school officials called police on him, threatening to have him arrested for felony wiretapping.
So police charged him with disorderly conduct instead, a charge he was convicted of last month.
Meanwhile, the bullies and the teacher who allowed the bullying – not to mention the administrators who intimidated him into deleting the audio – have yet to be disciplined.
Here’s hoping karma catches up to all of them, including Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet, who convicted the child because, she said, he went to the “extreme” of recording the bullying rather than “let the school handle it.”
But the boy’s mother, Shea Love, had transcribed the recording the night before he took it to the principal, indicating the school’s way of handling it was simply to ignore it.
The student and his mother, Shea Love, testified before the magistrate that the boy has been repeatedly shoved and tripped at school, and that a fellow student had even attempted to burn him with a cigarette lighter. The defendant is, according to school records, a well-behaved student with no history of disciplinary action. He was, however, previously diagnosed with a comprehension delay disorder, which is a slower processing speed for information than is normal, ADHD, and an anxiety disorder. He says the bullying treatment is especially harsh and academically disruptive during his special education math class, in which students with behavioral problems are also placed. Last month, after doing research on several anti-bullying websites, he used his school approved personal iPad to make a seven-minute audio recording of his classroom experience. He played the recording at home for his mother. Outraged, Love, a former Air Force Morse code operator, transcribed the audio before calling school administrators.
According to Love, 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**t) smells! No one wants to smell that (t**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 heard laughing.
Love says that upon fielding her complaint, Principal Scott Milburn called South Fayette Township police Lieutenant Robert Kurta to the school to interrogate her son in the presence of Associate Principal Aaron Skrbin and Dean of Students Joseph Silhanek. The defendant testified before Judge McGraw-Desmet that he was forced to play the audio for the group and then delete it. Love says by the time she arrived at the school, her son was surrounded by school officials and the police officer and was visibly distraught. She says
Principal Milburn advised her that her son was “facing felony wiretapping charges” because he made a recording in a place with an expectation of privacy, and that Officer Kurta agreed. Milburn defended the teacher’s response to the classroom disturbance.
The following is Judge McGraw-Desmet’s full, almost incoherent, statement:
“Normally, if there is — I certainly have a big problem with any kind of bullying at school. But normally, you know, I would expect a parent would let the school know about it, because it’s not tolerated. I know that, and that you guys [school administrators] would handle that, you know. To go to this extreme, you know, it was the only alternative or something like that, but you weren’t made aware of that and that was kind of what I was curious about. Because it’s not tolerated, but you need to go through — let the school handle it. And I know from experience with South Fayette School that, you know, it always is. And if there is a problem and it continues, then it is usually brought in front of me.”
You wonder who would elect such a judge?
McGraw-Desmet conceded that name recognition helped her win 37 percent of the 2,536 votes cast in the Democratic primary last month and 30 percent of the 1,337 votes in the Republican primary. . . . “Undoubtedly, my mother’s good reputation as district judge went a long way toward helping me win.”
So it’s obvious the judge is part of the establishment in this sparsely populated region of the state, which is why she would never take a stand for justice if it means embarrassing her peers.
Principal Scott Milburn, who ordered the deletion of the audio and should be criminally charged with tampering with evidence, can be reached at (412) 221-4542 extension 265. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact the South Fayette Township Police Department, who charged the kid with disorderly conduct, at (412) 279-6911.