Jan 222017
 

It is an issue that has come up a number of times for me with one of my other “hats” on: do you send a child to school with a wire to record what’s going on in the school if they claim they are being harassed or abused so that you have proof? Maybe you’ve seen bruises on them and can get no real answer from the school. Maybe your child is telling you that a school administrator is cursing them and threatening them. Maybe you don’t know what to believe. Or maybe you do believe your child, but no one else will believe what’s going on.

We know, from studies, that students with disabilities are more likely to be harassed or abused in school. We’ve all seen the horrific footage of such abuse in other cases. Now it’s your child who may be being mistreated by school personnel.

What would you do if you decide you can’t just remove your child from that school because you can’t find an alternative placement? Or maybe there are alternatives, but you decide that the school should not get away with this because they’ll continue doing it to other children, if not yours.

What would you do?

If you live in a state where two-party consent is required for audio and/or video recording, then under the law, they should not secretly record any conversation – even if, as may be in the case at hand – you have gone to the police on several occasions to no avail.

So what do you do to protect your child or to get evidence of what’s going on?

I know what we’ve done in the past, but because my lawyer would probably prefer I not publicly admit to any possible crimes, I won’t say here.

But it sounds like there may be that kind of situation in Pennsylvania, where a Woodland Hills High School administrator allegedly was verbally abusive and threatened a student with disabilities. CBS reports:

There was harsh criticism of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala outside the Woodland Hills School District Administration building Wednesday night.

Protestors gathered for a demonstration sponsored by a group called the Alliance for Police Accountability.

Brandi Fisher, of the Alliance for Police Accountability, told the gathering, “Not only does the D.A. need to charge the principal, the D.A. needs to resign.”

The controversy stems from Zappala’s recent decision not to file charges against high school Principal Kevin Murray after an expletive-filled reprimand he gave to a student.

The student secretly recorded the conversation.

Read more on CBS Pittsburgh.

The stations’s past coverage of the case is linked from here.  The recording allegedly catches the administrator saying, ““I’m going to [expletive] punch you in the face. Man-to-man, bro. I don’t care if you are [expletive] 14-years-old or not. I will punch you in your face, and when we go down to court, it’s your word against mine, and mine wins every time.”

Reading the coverage, it appears that the district decided that the recording could not legally be used against the administrator because the recording was made in violation of wiretap laws.

So police can violate the law and the evidence can be used in many cases under some “good faith” exception,” but evidence against a school administrator is not entitled to any good faith exception and would have to be suppressed?  And then you charge the teenager for violating the wiretap law?

Something’s very wrong here.

Maybe Orin Kerr or Scott Greenfield can help me understand why this is a correct course of action – to not use the tape and to charge the teenager. Somehow, I doubt I will be easily convinced.

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