Police charge high school student with disorderly conduct for using iPad to prove he’s being bullied

One student tried to prove administrators were letting him be bullied. So they called the cops on him in response

Topics: McDonald, Pennsylvania, Police, cops, overcriminalization, Bullying, Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet, South Fayette High School, Photography Is Not A Crime, ,

Police charge high school student with disorderly conduct for using iPad to prove he's being bullied (Credit: Kris Schmidt via Shutterstock)

Trigger-warning if you hate incompetent bureaucrats and the abuse of power.

Photography Is Not A Crime has flagged a story out of McDonald, Pennsylvania about a high school student whose attempts to prove he was the victim of bullying ended up landing him in front of a judge and charged with disorderly conduct.

According to reports, a high school sophomore at South Fayette High School had grown so sick of having teachers and administrators look the other way whenever he was being bullied that he decided to record some of the routine abuse with his iPad. When school administrators found this out, they took swift action — against him, not his bullies.

Officials at South Fayette High School allegedly told the student to delete the recording and threatened to have him arrested on charges of felony wiretapping. By the time the police arrived at the school, however, the student had already deleted the file.

But rather than leave it there, the police chose to charge the student for disorderly conduct. About a month later, a judge convicted him. No disciplinary actions have been taken against either the administrators and teachers who ignored the bullying or the bullies themselves.

In her remarks defending her decision to convict the bullied child, Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet claimed that the student’s recording of his abusers’ taunts was an “extreme” move. It would’ve been better, the judge said, if the child had opted to “let the school handle it” instead.

Here’s her full statement, which Photography Is Not A Crime describes as “almost incoherent”:



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.

Photography Is Not A Crime also notes that the judge is herself the daughter of a judge, a family relationship which likely helped secure her own election to the bench.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

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