South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
The mother of a South Fayette High School student convicted of disorderly conduct for recording classmates bullying him wants a judge to reverse the decision and the district to apologize.
Shea Love, 40, of South Fayette questioned why school officials contacted police to discuss a possible violation of wiretap laws but refused to confront the students whose voices she says were captured on an iPad tormenting her son.
Love requested the identity of her son, 15, a sophomore diagnosed with a comprehension delay disorder, ADHD, and an anxiety disorder, be kept private out of fear of retribution.
“The whole thing has been a horrible nightmare,” Love told the Tribune-Review on Sunday. “This whole ordeal has made my son miserable.”
Asked to discuss the case, school board President Len Fornella said: “I can't comment on that.”
Other school board members, Superintendent Bille P. Rondinelli, high school principal Scott Milburn and assistant principal Aaron Skrbin did not return calls or could not be reached during the weekend. South Fayette police could not be reached.
According to a transcript of a March 19 hearing before South Fayette District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet, the boy said he made the seven-minute recording “because I always felt like it wasn't me being heard.”
He said classmates harassed him for several months, and even though he told his mom, he didn't have anything to show for it.
“I wanted some help,” he said. “This wasn't just a one-time thing. This always happens every day in that class.”
Love testified that the recording includes one boy telling another boy to pull her son's pants down. The teacher tells them that if what they're talking about doesn't have anything to do with math, they need to stop talking.
Later in the recording, Love testified, there is a loud slam, and the teacher tells them to sit down.
Two boys ask, “What? I was just trying to scare him.”
Milburn called South Fayette police Lt. Robert Kurta on Feb. 12 requesting he come take a report because he believed he “had a wiretapping incident.” State law generally prohibits secret audio recording.
After questioning the boy, district officials forced him to erase the recording and punished him with a Saturday detention, which he served, according to the hearing transcript. Kurta, who testified that he did not hear the recording, charged him with disorderly conduct, a summary offense.
Kurta did not return calls. He told the judge that he didn't think the case warranted a felony wiretapping charge but made the decision to pursue a summary charge “because I believe that he committed a crime.”
Skrbin testified that the district had records of Love complaining about students bullying her son, including an incident in October in which a student hit her son with “spitwads,” even after her son told him to stop.
“To be blunt, I would not classifying that as bullying,” Skrbin said.
McGraw-Desmet found Love's son guilty. She fined him a minimum of $25 and ordered him to pay court costs. McGraw-Desmet could not be reached.
Love said her son is appealing the judge's decision.
A hearing is scheduled in Common Pleas Court on April 29.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.