One of the first pieces of advice that I (and all my bullying prevention colleagues) give to students who are being bullied is: COLLECT EVIDENCE.
In many case, evidence is the only thing that will stand between a target and an institution that prefers to believe the bully. We saw this happen when Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins after being harassed and bullied by teammate Richie Incognito. The initial response by many in pro football to his allegations was “oh, Martin just can’t hack the locker room culture. He’s being too sensitive.”
But when Martin produced evidence, including a voice recording of Richie Incognito calling him the n-word and other hateful slurs, the NFL could no longer blame the victim. Suddenly, Incognito was suspended, and an independent investigation eventually determined that Incognito was guilty of harassment.
Precedent proves that evidence is necessary, but what is a student to do if he isn’t even allowed to collect evidence of his victimization? I am sickened by this week’s story of a school, police, and judicial system that all used their power to further marginalize a bullied student when he tried to record what was happening to him:
As reported by Photography Is Not A Crime:
A high school sophomore in Pennsylvania who had been bullied all year by classmates with no help from his teacher decided to audio record the bullying on his iPad as evidence.
But instead of disciplining the bullies, school officials called police on him, threatening to have him arrested for felony wiretapping.
By the time the cops arrived at South Fayette High School in McDonald, school administrators had already forced the 15-year-old boy to delete the audio clip.
So police charged him with disorderly conduct instead, a charge he was convicted of last month.
Meanwhile, the bullies and the teacher who allowed the bullying – not to mention the administrators who intimidated him into deleting the audio – have yet to be disciplined.
Here’s hoping karma catches up to all of them, including Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet, who convicted the child because, she said, he went to the “extreme” of recording the bullying rather than “let the school handle it.”
The whole reason the child was trying to record the mistreatment was BECAUSE the school was ineffective at handling it. This case is a travesty of justice, and the people should roar until their voices penetrate the silence that this school is trying to impose on its most vulnerable students.
Carrie Goldman is the award-winning author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear. Bullied addresses issues of sexualization, gender bias, and bullying.