Children, teenagers, even adults, can be cruel. This is not new information. Bullying has been going on for ages, but lately, perhaps with the advent of the Internet and social media, a new light is being shed on its serious, serious consequences. According to the website bullyingstatistics.org, bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to commit suicide, and that risk increases with girls ages 10-14.
And, lets not forget that the deeply disturbed individuals who commit heinous crimes like mass school shootings and stabbings are often the victims of bullying.
The information that is available now, and the focus on many schools and organizations to raise awareness and stop bullying, makes what happened recently at South Fayette High School all the more disgusting and horrible.
Christian Stanfield, a 15-year-old sophomore, after being fed up with repeated torment from classmates, recorded an incident of himself being bullied in math class. When school officials learned of the recording, not only did they make him delete it, but he was charged with felony wiretapping – but not before his mother, Shea Love, could transcribe it.
The charges were eventually lowered to disorderly conduct, and, following a lot of media coverage and an appeal scheduled for April 29, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office dropped the charges completely.
According to the transcription of the recording, the teacher didn’t step in and stop the bullying – merely, he allegedly told the students that if they weren’t talking about math, to stop talking.
We don’t want to hear the excuse that the teacher didn’t know exactly what those boys were saying – in a classroom setting where the teacher has control, it should be quiet enough to hear anything that any student says.
To our knowledge, as of press time, the students who were bullying Stanfield have not seen any repercussions to their actions, nor has the teacher. This sends a horrible message to not only Stanfield, but to other students being bullied. It sends a message that their teachers and administrators, who they should be able to trust to protect students, will not do so. It sends a message that bullying, taunting, teasing other students is OK – and it most certainly is not.
This story, this case, took the attention off of the matter at hand – bullying – and twisted it into a ridiculous wiretapping case.
While we are aware that it is illegal to record anyone in the state of Pennsylvania without their permission, this is a case that went entirely too far. The DA’s office issued a statement saying: “We do not believe his conduct rises to the level of the citation.”
L ast week, the all too familiar news of school violence hit close to home when 16-year old Alex Hribal allegedly went on a stabbing spree at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. The incident proves that no high school, no neighborhood, no one is immune to the senseless violence that is plaguing our nation.
School resumed yesterday, as those directly involved in the incident – witnesses, victims, heroes – were able to walk the halls and talk with teachers and counselors in the morning, and the rest of the school’s population reported in the afternoon. It is the beginning of the return to normalcy, albeit a new “normal.” The scars, both physical and psychological, will remain with the students and teachers forever.
Because Hribal isn’t talking – he’s been repeatedly described as a “deer in headlights,” showing no emotion whatsoever – the motive behind the attacks is, at the time of this writing, still a mystery. Investigators haven’t ruled bullying out, but Hribal’s family has said he wasn’t bullied, and there has not been any evidence to suggest that he was. He has no behavior history or any known mental issues.
Clearly, though, somewhere something went very, very wrong with Alex Hribal. With any luck, as the investigation continues, it can shed some light on why he felt he had to commit the horrible act.
As bad as the incident was, it could have been much worse. Thanks to the bravery and quick action of assistant principal Sam King, who tackled Hribal to the ground and stopped the attacks, and student Nate Scimio, who pulled the fire alarm to get students and teachers to evacuate the building, the number of those injured or wounded was 21, and the number of fatalities was zero. Had Hribal’s weapon of choice been a gun, the end results would have been very different.
We urge parents to take this as an opportunity to really talk to their children. Find out how they cope with day to day life, if they are being bullied, if they are bullying, if they have any violent fantasies, if they feel isolated or alone, and so on. Perhaps the conversation can help avoid another incident, and get the child the help that he or she so desperately needs.
If a conversation can prevent just one such incident, imagine how many lives can be saved.
We sincerely hope that this is the last such editorial that this paper runs.