Bullied South Fayette student's case prompts wiretap overhaul legislation
A Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to change the state's wiretapping and electronic surveillance law since a South Fayette High School student was cited for recording audio of a bullying incident at the school.
“Sometimes, you don't realize a problem until there's a problem,” said state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, who wants to include a whistleblower provision in the wiretapping law for students in schools or school-sponsored events. “If we can provide some clarity in the law about what a student can and can't do, then I don't think that's a bad thing. If a student knows that they can record a bully, and if a bully knows that they can be recorded, then I think that can do a lot of good.”
A judge on Thursday withdrew a disorderly conduct charge against South Fayette sophomore Christian Stanfield, 15, who used his iPad to record students bullying him in February. Administrators made Stanfield erase the recording and reported it to police as a potential wiretap law violation, a reaction that drew criticism from parents and anti-bullying advocates on social media and at a recent school board meeting.
White, who is up for re-election and will be challenged in May's primary by Tom Casciola, a member of Cecil's board of supervisors, said he met with Christian and his mother, Shea Love, 40, about the proposal.
“I'm glad that there's going to be a law to stop what Christian went through,” Love said. “But you can't stop there. There has to be something bigger.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania opposes White's proposed changes to the wiretap law, said Andy Hoover, the organization's legislative director. He said the expectation of privacy, a component of the wiretap law, varies depending on the situation.
Students or staff members having a personal conversation could be considered private, but students in a lunchroom, classroom or hallway are not, he said. School officials should have better addressed issues of bullying in the South Fayette case, he said.
“There are numerous ways for schools to address bullying without turning every kid into a spy with a camera,” Hoover said. “When you open up the wiretap act in this way, it leads to unintended consequences.”
Hoover said amendments to the wiretap act made in 2012 allow for victims or witnesses of violent crime to record without consent. White said a provision in his bill would require that the recorded material only go to authorities.
White intends to introduce the bill next week.
Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Millions in pollution fines went unused for decades in Allegheny County
- Rare surgery helps woman beat paralysis
- Group’s proposed fracking moratorium for Allegheny County parks to go on council agenda
- Reading Harry Potter provides clues to brain activity, CMU researchers say
- Girl, 12, rescues 4-year-old sister from burning house in Homestead
- Apartment development outlined for former Schenley High School in Pittsburgh
- Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank adds chief financial officer Lutovsky
- Suspect in Route 28 death has long history of ignoring vehicle registration, license laws, records show
- Dinners, other Thanksgiving events planned in region
- Lower gas prices entice motorists to drive long distances for Thanksgiving