There has been some rather disturbing news out of Pennsylvania recently. Apparently, a young special needs boy of about high-school age was punished for recording people who were bullying him. While there is not a whole lot of information on this case, it is disturbing on many levels.
Christian Stanfield, a 15-year-old sophomore of Pennsylvania’s South Fayette High School, is apparently afflicted with numerous types of maladies, including an unspecified anxiety disorder as well as ADHD. The term “anxiety disorder” covers a range of different problems such as panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder among others. While anxiety in general is of course a normal part of life, problems like OCD and the like are much more severe. Indeed, they can make it difficult for a person to live life normally.
Certainly, the inner workings of the human brain are not easy to understand. Additionally, it is unclear what specific type of anxiety disorder this high-school student had. Nevertheless, as someone who has experienced problems with OCD and panic attacks, this writer can attest that anxiety problems are no small matter. Indeed, these problems can at times feel crippling. Surely no child deserves to be bullied on top of all of this.
Stanfield decided to use a school-issued iPad in order to record what has apparently been repeated incidents of bullying. This iPad was confiscated by school officials and given to local authorities. Unfortunately, Stanfield’s troubles did not end there as he was then incredibly charged with illegal wiretapping, since he had recorded the other students without their consent. Thankfully, those charges have since been dropped.
This case is complex because there are quite a few different issues at work. For one thing, there is the problem of bullying and the question of what can be done about it. Secondly, this case brings up privacy issues as well as how laws ought to be enforced.
Bullying can certainly be a big problem in public schools and elsewhere, but dealing with it can be difficult. Some amount of bullying will inevitably occur. There is a danger of going too far and censoring people who are not, in fact bullying anyone. That is not to say that poor behavior ought to be tolerated, but it is certainly possible for society to become too sensitive. In any case, it seems ridiculous for a special needs boy to be punished for recording the bullying that was plaguing him.
It seems like this mess could have been avoided if the teachers had done something to begin with. Maybe they tried to act, but Stanfield indicated that the problems had persisted for months without school personnel doing anything. This is why he finally decided to record the bullies in the first place.
Apparently, the state has laws that make it necessary for a person to know that they are being recorded. In general, this might be a good thing, as it can help prevent privacy issues. This seems to be a case of a well-intentioned law that has been enforced with zero logic. Stanfield only recorded the other students because those who were supposed to protect him (the school officials) were not doing their jobs.
When a special needs boy can be punished for recording the people who have bullied him repeatedly, it should be an indication that something is very wrong. Bullying is not something that is going to just go away, but at the very least, the victims should not be punished.
Opinion By Zach Kirkman
Personal experience with anxiety disorders