For the first time, since her teen son was convicted of disorderly conduct for recording bullies in his classroom, Shea Love, the mother of that student, is speaking out.
Benswann.com is the first media outlet in the country to reveal that student to you, after he was bullied at South Fayette High School in McDonald, Pennsylvania and then punished for speaking up.
Christian Aaron True Stanfield, a sophomore, claims to have been bullied for months in his first year at South Fayette High School. On February 11, he made an audio recording of one bullying incident during his special education math class. Stanfield used his school approved iPad to make a seven-minute audio recording of the incident. Instead of questioning the students whose voices were recorded, school administrators threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping. Our original story was first reported here, where we have detailed that bullying incident.
“Christian chose the most responsible route possible for a student who felt he had no power and no voice in order to change the negative environment that he was forced to be in every day. If we are ever going to change the culture of violence in our schools, we need to look at Christian’s actions not criminally, but rather as a profound cultural step in the right direction for kids who don’t feel they are being heard,” says Christian’s mother Shea Love.
As we reported, Christian’s actions were treated criminally, however, after his mother contacted the school. Shea listened to the recording before contacting administrators. The recording included repeated abusive and vulgar language from students as Christian was receiving help from a math teacher. After Christian’s mother heard it, she called the school at 8:00 a.m. on February 12 and spoke with Dean of Students Joseph Silhanek. Principal Milburn immediately consulted with the school’s attorney on the matter before calling the police. When Shea Love arrived at the school at approximately 10:20 a.m., she found her 15-year-old son visibly distraught in a wooden chair in the middle of the room, surrounded by school administrators and the police. She was advised over the phone at 10:00 a.m. that her son had committed a crime and was being questioned.
“Christian had the courage to be vulnerable as a whistleblower in order to create change where it was desperately needed. The school’s zero tolerance response (to electronics use) is the very type of action that creates the dangerous situations we have in our school today. Some of our children are choosing anger and deadly outbursts in order to be heard,” said Shea Love.
Instead of punishing the bullying students who were recorded on his iPad, it was Christian who served a Saturday detention for making the recording. Then, he was required to appear in front of a magistrate judge on charges of disorderly conduct. Stanfield’s mother said the school’s attorney was present at the March trial but refused to state his entire name to the court reporter. “When she asked him about his identity, he said that he was not involved,” Love said. “The court reporter asked him for his name and he just barked that his name was Wolfe.”
During the hearing, Lt. Robert Kurta testified that he consulted with the Allegheny District Attorney’s office before following up on the case, saying, “I made the decision to file a citation, summary citation, locally to be heard by our magistrate because I believe that he (Stanfield) committed a crime and that there should be some — he should in some way answer for it.”
Originally, Lt. Kurta indicated that Christian could be charged with a wiretapping felony. For clarification, law enforcement officers do not have the authority to charge anyone with a crime. When asked why the wiretapping charge was not officially made, Kurta testified, “That violation is a felony, and had I filed a felony charge against your client, and had he been adjudicated delinquent through juvenile court, that’s a record…”
On Wednesday, March 19, District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet opened the trial by stating that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was charging Christian Stanfield with disorderly conduct. The accused never entered a plea, but McGraw-Desmet found him guilty and ordered that he pay a fine.
“Christian’s willingness to advocate in a non-violent manner should be championed as a turning point. If Mr. Milburn and the South Fayette school district really want to do the right thing, they would recognize that their zero-tolerance policies and overemphasis on academics and athletics have practically eliminated social and emotional functioning from school culture. They should make it a top priority to use this incident as a catalyst for social and emotional change in the district and pioneer the way for other districts to follow.
“Mr. Milburn, will you stand by Christian’s side in court April 29 or will you still be looking down at him from the other side?” asked Shea Love.
Christian Stanfield is preparing a statement of his own to give on April 29, the day of his appeal hearing. Ben Swann will have the exclusive story.