This case out of South Fayette High School in Pennsylvania is a sterling example of why recording laws need to be relaxed in states which require the consent of all parties to record.
It’s also a stark reminder of how much education administrators hate recording devices. Recordings allow students, parents, and concerned citizens to nail schools to the wall. They prevent administrators from wiggling out of responsibilities they should have owned up to a long time ago with bureaucratic parlor tricks and deals behind closed doors.
This case is also a decent example of how, if parents of young men had discovered this site sooner, they might have averted a significant risk to themselves. This website has a resource page dedicated exclusively to recording laws and devices. Where legal matters are concerned it is intended as a rough guide, but the laws of some US states (roughly 1/4 of the total) are quite clear: consent of all parties is needed in order for a recording to be legal.
But instead of punishing the teenage tyrants caught on tape, administrators decided to call the police, who threatened the 15-year-old boy with felony wiretapping, but later reduced the charge to disorderly conduct. He was found guilty on March 19.
The article from The Blaze also mentions that the administration coerced the boy into deleting the recordings. And we can’t say they did this to save the boy and his family from a potential lawsuit despite “doing the right thing” because they were the ones who called the police on the abused boy.
How classy of them.
Oh and by the way, the school never punished the bullies. No doubt, however, that if some other pervasively bullied kid decides one day that he has had enough and decides to beat up his tormentors, or – god forbid – brings a gun to school, the administration will claim they “did everything they could” to address bullying.
It’s pervasive mentality among school staff which I witnessed when I was a schoolboy back in the 90s: they cut off all peaceful means of resolution because they just can’t be bothered, and then they wonder why shit happens. Not all of them are like that, of course. But too many are.
And while it shouldn’t make much of a difference, previous incidents have mostly involved parents slipping discreet spyware into their children’s pockets, rather than the child taking action.
Indeed. And here is a video of a parent from New Jersey using recording devices effectively in such a case.
“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.”
Sometimes recording laws do serve a purpose. But too often people – education administrators especially – hide behind privacy laws (including the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act, or FERPA) as a means of silencing those who wish to expose the abuse that goes on under their watch.
I believe a soapbox is appropriate for this occasion.
What kinds of lessons are the actions of the South Fayette High School administration teaching the kids around them? Nothing less than the importance of not trusting those in authority. The next time someone asks you “what’s wrong with kids today,” remind them of cases like this. Remind them of the “zero tolerance” attitude among adults in academia that jettisons common sense, discretion, and human decency.
Don’t ever let anyone ask “what’s wrong with kids today” (or boys today, for that matter) and get away with it. By and large, kids today are alright.
It’s the adults who are messed up.
The student and his family plan to appeal the ruling on April 29.