Grace Under Pressure: Bullied Teen Christian Stanfield Fights Back

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an ongoing series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously make positive differences in their own lives and consequently in the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes live among us and that their service is quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward  – and ours, too.

christian-stanfieldA Pittsburgh area teen thought he was doing the right thing to end his bullying but his audio recording of the abuse only resulted in criminal charges for wiretapping. Sophomore Christian Stanfield had endured a miserable school year at the hands of  two classmates who tripped, shoved and even attempted to burn the 15-year-old with a cigarette lighter. Pleas for help to his teacher went unheeded for the teenager who suffers from comprehension delay disorder ( a brain disorder involving slower processing speed for information than is normal) ADHD, and an anxiety disorder. So last month Christian decided to get the proof he needed to make school officials listen. Sitting in his math class, he activated his Ipad as his tormentors launched another verbal fusillade. “”They were talking about pulling his pants down, and some things I can’t repeat, and laughing and cutting up like it was a big joke, it was not a joke, not at all funny,”  said Christian’s mother, Shea Love, who heard the recording at her kitchen table that afternoon.

Ms Love was being generous with her words. The actual recording allegedly contained sexual references and demeaning language. With a teacher helping Christian with a math problem one of his bullys is overheard on the tape saying, ““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).” Then, a loud noise is heard—the sound of book being slammed down next to Love’s son after a student feigned hitting him in the head with it. The teacher screams. Laughter follows.

Ms. Love and her son transcribed the audio and then called the principal’s office the following morning to demand some action amid deflections that the school’s hands were tied because the teen had no proof of his abuse. (I guess the teacher missed what was happening directly in front of her.) Principal Scott Milburn told Shea he was going to do something and Shea sent her son to school for the expected remediation. Instead of anger at the perpetrators after confirmation of their bullying,  Principal Milburn summoned South Fayette Township Police Lieutenant Robert Kurta to the school to interrogate her son in the presence of the associate principal and the dean of students. With his mother now at work, the four male authority figures threatened to charge the special needs teen with felony wiretap unless he erased the recording. Bullied again, Christian complied and was then told he would be receiving a break – only a misdemeanor charge.

In a rambling decision District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet found Christian guilty of disorderly conduct .“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.”  Huh?

Christian and his lawyer had had quite enough of  this Pennsylvania justice and appealed the conviction.

Attorney Jonathan Steele took the case saying what happened here was no crime at all and contending Christian attempts to fight back did not trigger the anti-wiretapping laws. In a remark that should top every school discipline handbook, Steele added, “The lesson is zero tolerance doesn’t necessarily mean zero common sense.” After discussions with another reasonable man, District Attorney Stephen Zappala, the charges were dismissed at the appeal hearing.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for Zappala, said Judge Robert Gallo signed the order Thursday to withdraw the citation against the teen.”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,” Manko said in a written statement. “We do not believe this behavior rises to the level of a citation.”

Christian has returned to school but no discipline has yet been handed down to his tormentors or the look-the-other-way teacher. No evidence exists you see. School Principal Milburn remains at his seat but his chair is getting hotter. Lawyer Steele promises that the case is not over and the hubbub has caught the ear of more enlightened government officials. The U.S. Office of Civil Rights has been contacted and an investigation is in the offing.

South Fayette Township School District Superintendent Bille Rondinelli declined to comment. That’s about the only  thing the school district has got right in this case.

Source: WTAE; PINAC; The Foundry 

Kudos and thanks to my brother-in-law Mark Daley of Uniontown, PA for bringing this story to my attention.

~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor


100 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure: Bullied Teen Christian Stanfield Fights Back”

  1. I hope the family got that I-Pad into the hands of a tech. When a file is “Deleted” the link to where the file is contained on the drive is removed but all the data remains until it is overwritten. Usually that doesn’t happen right away. So the recording may be recoverable.

    Proof of what happened needs to be maintained.

  2. What so many seem to ignore is that bullying is a direct result of the kids upbringing and reflects directly on the parents.

  3. There is no question that medical bills are often beyond understanding, but that has only been in the forefront since 1965 (Public Law 89-97). Now several things have happen including deterioration of the doctor/patient relationship, inflation, malpractice, complicated medical procedures, cost to obtain a medical degree, a very complex billing system, a very complex tax code, public willing to fund the entertainment community with salaries in the millions, wall street, perquisites not taxed etc. You have a right to be concern !!!

  4. @Darren Smith “But it seems to me they were somewhat guilty of intimidating a witness because the boy was trying to record harassment to show the case to what he perceived to be the authorities and the school initiated a criminal prosecution against him in doing so.”

    I agree except that I would remove the word “somewhat.” Fifteen year old Christian was faced with a room full of adult men including an armed police officer.

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned evidence tampering? Isn’t that illegal in all states? Wouldn’t forcing Christian to erase the recording qualify as evidence tampering? Wouldn’t the threats by the bullies qualify as the crime of harassment in the outside world? If so, these administrators forced Christian to destroy evidence of a possible crime.

    1. Simms – I know that iPod is proprietary but they should be able to resurrect the file unless it was shredded.

      1. There is a joke in the patriot community. “We’re from the government and we’re here to protect you.” To serve and protect may be their motto, but it is not generally the result. It may be in Hollywood but not in real life. Most crimes are not prevented they’re investigated after the crime is committed. The government spends more time and money trying to collect taxes than it does protecting the Citizens. The truth is the overall tax rates, including all types are at or near their highest in history and hundreds times higher than in 1900 when the US was the largest Creditor nation in the world. We are now the largest debtor nation in the world.

        I always try to explain to people that government is antithetic to both liberty and the commerce associated with liberty, we call capitalism. Basically for government to survive it must somehow get a piece of the action that capitalism produces. It must extract money from the Citizens through various forms. There is a tax on almost everything you buy and everything you earn, if you abide by all the rules.

        If you get charged with a crime you will be literally rapped and pillaged by our judicial system. For the 20% with money they are often able to buy their way out of many infractions, for the rest are not so fortunate.

        If you get sick the medical system will do the same. Lawyers, Doctors and Dentists charge 10 to 20 times more than the average person makes. For the people in the 80%, many have learned how to represent themselves “Pro Se” in court and many now go to other countries to get their medical and dental work done at significantly lower prices.

        At one time in our history, the entire Federal Government ran off of a luxury import taxes and Presidents like Adams and Jefferson had budget surpluses.

        Only one year in the last 35 years has there even been a annual balanced budget and we are now running up a $trillion a year in annual deficits.

        The working relationship between free enterprise and government is not obviously working and the results speak volumes. Almost every social problems that we had in 1960 is much worse today. From public high school drop out rates to the highest incarceration rates in the world, American leads the world in basically one category now; waging war and manipulating the foreign affairs of other nations in the name of spreading freedom and democracy. Of course the US itself is not a democracy nor are the liberties of it’s Citizens being protected.

        For those of you who are promoting the private/public mixed economic model, you may want to look at the results of nearly 100 years of the accumulation of centralized power in the hands of government. You may want to consider if it is just you and a small group of people who are better off under the current system or is it the majority who is better off. You may want to consider that 48 million people today must rely on Food Stamps in order to feed themselves and in 1900 there were “no” forms of government welfare, yet people like my grandmother, the daughter of a sharecropper from Sicily survived to the age of 90, from hard work and responsibility.

        After 90 years of the Keynesian mixed economic model, we have the largest military industrial complex in the world; aren’t you proud?

        So there are basically three choices. We can stay on the same course and pray things get better; they won’t. We can increase the size and level of government taxation and regulation or we can decrease the levels of government taxation and regulation. Do we go more socialistic and communistic or do we go more capitalistic and free enterprise.

        For those that believe that we as a society can tweak the existing system to make it more efficient and productive, you fail to understand one basic reality. No one can know what is in another persons best interest. Thinking that you can know what is in the majorities best interest is both arrogant and delusional. Of course we have seen what leaving it up to our illustrious politicians has done.

        More government has not improved society, it has made it worse for the majority. Every social program enacted, whether it’s welfare or warfare, distorts the Citizens ability to care for themselves and their families by taking money from them and giving it to someone it doesn’t rightfully belong to. How can such a system promote a just and equitable rule of law.

        The though of this young person first being bullied by others and nobody in government assisting to protect him is just another example of governments ineffectiveness at protecting the Citizens. What it really shows is governments protective nature, not for the majority, but for themselves.

        Go figure, the same selfishness that capitalism is often times erroneously accused of, is really rampant in government as these type of actions by government officials is common place.

        The question is, does the legalization of force and coercion (taxation) promote such actions. With over 115 different types of taxation now in force and effect, it is surely a highly probably assumption.

        If the Supreme Court can rule in Kelo v. New Haven that government can take a property using eminent domain because it is not being utilized at it’s highest and best use, thus not providing the greatest tax revenue to government, what property rights really exist? The idea of any type of significant inalienable rights is now just an illusion and everyone wonders why we are suffering from various systemic problems. Who is now going to protect the rights of the majority?

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