Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MA Bullying Meets Disorderly Conduct From School Committee Meeting To Federal Court

…And so the bullying battles in South Hadley rage on. You may remember South Hadley. Last year, Phoebe Prince, new to our shores, committed suicide there. Immediately, the finger of blame was pointed at schoolmates who had been bullying her. Almost as immediately, the local District Attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel (hereinafter, the “Heroic Prosecutor”) noticed the opportunity to make some headlines (no matter the cost) and took the extreme step of indicting those kids.

Later, we found out that Ms. Prince had already been a troubled young lady who had apparently attempted suicide in the past.

No problem. The media spotlight had already shown. The indictments stand. In fact, they will most likely continue to stand (or show) on the kids’ records for the next 15 years or so.

This was supposed to be a sharp message of intolerance to bullying according to the Heroic Prosecutor.

Apparently, it wasn’t. Bullying in the schools continued. We wrote about that. No change. In fact, to the contrary, it inspired new and rushed legislation that also enabled our
politicians to not only garner their share of the spotlight, but to give us “No Name-Calling Day”, a new holiday their brave and “tough” statute proclaimed.

Oh yes, and all kinds of confusion that the rushed law left in its wake which people are still trying to figure out how to deal with.

Well, the issues continue. Luke G., a 48-year-old insurance salesman (hereinafter, the “Plaintiff”) with two children in the school district has now sued the former head of the town school committee and two police officers in federal court for allegedly cutting him off and ejecting him from a public meeting after he criticized how school officials handled the bullying of Phoebe Prince.

The Plaintiff says that two South Hadley officers violated his federal and state civil rights through their actions at the April 14th school committee meeting.

“`The lawsuit will send a message to our kids that bullying on any level is unacceptable,” the Plaintiff said in an interview.

Apparently, South Hadley is the new Mecca of sending messages.

The suit filed in US District Court in Springfield stems from a raucous April 14 school committee meeting where a deeply divided, standing-room-only crowd expressed both anger at and support for school officials over how they responded to the bullying of Prince.

Before he spoke, the Plaintiff distributed copies of a statement he had written to committee members, the suit said. He then said that he and the Heroic Prosecutor had shared information with school committee members that the Plaintiff had corroborated, but the chairman cut him off.

“This information that you refer to is just the type of information that the Prince family has asked us not to disclose from day one,” the Plaintiff was scolded, according to the 11-page complaint.

The Plaintiff then called for the dismissal of the school district superintendent and South Hadley principal and for the censure or removal of Boisselle, the man who had scolded him, adding that many people in Massachusetts felt “it is now time to hold the adults responsible.”

“You’re done,” Boisselle allegedly responded.

When the Plaintiff insisted that he had a First Amendment right to speak, Boisselle replied, “Go outside on the street and talk to whoever wants to talk to you. Please leave.”

At that point, the two police officers, placed their hands on Gelinas and escorted him from the room, said the complaint.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

“Hey, Sam, isn’t he right? Doesn’t he have the right to voice his opinion?”

I would imagine so, of course I would point you to a recent matter of a black Harvard professor who spoke his piece, got arrested for disorderly conduct. You may have heard about the case of Professor Gates which sent waves of embarrassment from Cambridge to Washington, D.C.

Yes, you remember the charge of “disorderly conduct”, don’t you? It’s a vague little crime which is easily committed even if someone is simply being offensive. Particularly if they are being offensive to police officers (whom, you will note, seem to have ejected the Plaintiff on their own volition).

“Wow”, as my son would say. “I thought it was a free country and we had freedom of speech”.

We do…depending on what you mean by “free”.

Well, that is a topic for another day. Today, we simply watch as the wheels turn and adults continue to act at their best and serve as proper role models for kids who get indicted for bullying, assault, harassment and disorderly conduct.

Boy…..kids today…! Where do they learn this stuff?!?

Should you wish to discuss such a criminal matter with me, please feel free to call me to arragnge a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.

For the original story upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/09/south_hadley_ma.html?p1=Local_Links

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