Turning the table on bullies: Student fights back with recordings
While Pennsylvania is one of a few states that does requires both parties to know when a conversation is being recorded, Volokh notes that the state supreme court decided in 1998 that this requirement could only hold where there was a “justifiable expectation of privacy.”
“If you are talking to one other person, especially in a secluded place, the statute might apply,” Volokh said. “But in classroom with a teacher and classmates all around, it’s hard to see how you can see a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Dropping the charges against Stanfield to a disorderly conduct misdemeanor didn’t really improve the district’s case, Volokh added.
State law defines disorderly conduct as “engaging in fighting, threatening or violent behavior, making unreasonable noise, using obscene language or gestures, or creating a physically hazardous condition that serves no legitimate purpose.”
Not a single one of these criterion applies to the case, Volokh noted. “I have a feeling that given all this coverage, someone will volunteer to work on this guy's appeal,” Volokh said in an interview, speaking before the charges were dropped.
“But you need a local lawyer. Nor do I think it would be difficult case. Should be an open and shut matter.”
Using his Washington Post megaphone, where he co-authors a blog with several other law professors, Volokh would later write twice on the matter.
Not done yet
The case was open and shut enough that the District Attorney’s Office, in dropping the charges on April 16, also aggressively distanced itself from the affair. The statement released by the DA stated, “No one in our office who is authorized to give advice on wiretap issues or school conduct issues was ever contacted in this matter. We have made multiple attempts to contact the officer who wrote the citation and the results have been unsuccessful.”
And this is where the school would very much like the matter end, but Steele does not sound like someone who is ready to do that. He is currently weighing options on a civil lawsuit. The school, he argues, had long since been put on notice about the bullying, and had failed to make any effort to remedy it.
Steele said that if his clients sue, and he expects they will, they will be aiming not for monetary damages but for “injunctive relief,” which means they want the court to order the school district to change its policies and practices. “We’ve heard outcry from other families,” Steele said.
“We are more focused on correcting the culture. The closed-door policy will have to change.”
For his part, Christian Stanfield seems to have risen to the challenge. Initially frightened and alone, Steele said, "the national news coverage has given him strength and helped him realize that he did nothing wrong."
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