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5th grader suspended after recording teacher taunting student

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FORT PIERCE, Fla. — A Florida elementary student was suspended from school after she recorded audio of a teacher taunting a student during class.

Brianna Cooper, a fifth-grader at Fort Pierce Elementary School, recorded her teacher telling a classmate, “Don’t let the size fool you. I will drop you.”

Later in the recording, the teacher can be heard telling the student, “..biggest kid in the fifth grade and you acting like the smallest one.”

Cooper turned over the audio to school officials and the teacher was later fired, according to WPTV. However, Brianna was suspended from school for five days because the recording was “illegal.”

The school determined she obtained the recording illegally because it was made without the teacher’s knowledge and violated the teacher’s expectation of privacy.

The Florida law states:

Florida makes it a crime to intercept or record a “wire, oral, or electronic communication” in Florida, unless all parties to the communication consent. Florida law makes an exception for in-person communications when the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard.

While school administrators say the teacher had an expectation of privacy, Brianna’s mom says this is not the case in a room full of students.

Brianna’s mother has asked the school to rescind the suspension and have it permanently removed from record.

The school issued a statement on the teacher:

The staff at Sam Gaines Academy investigated the incident involving unprofessional behavior by the teacher and took swift, appropriate action.  The teacher was dismissed and no longer works for the school system.

The school has not commented on the suspension of the student.

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33 comments

  • Kittykat1912

    The classroom is a venue open to public students, no suspension should have been applied. Kudos to the girl for having stood up for what was right!

    • beth

      I agree…It’s a public school. I was a public school employee and though I wouldn’t have liked being recorded without my knowledge, I would’ve deserved exposure if I was bullying a child!

  • Jim E Rotten

    “Florida law makes an exception for in-person communications when the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard.”

    Like, oh, I don’t know – a classroom? At least the teacher no longer works there. Maybe the student’s suspension is just a precaution to have in case the teacher files a wrongful termination claim?

  • tired worker

    . Florida law makes an exception for in-person communications when the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard. So I would assume a classroom full of kids who would have overheard this, would make it an exception.

  • Matt Beals

    Yup, illegal to record and USE the recording. Not illegal to record and keep for yourself.

    Having said that, what a brave girl standing up to an adult being threaning. Good for her. Take the punishmet in stride, you did the right thing.

  • Bob Chamberlin

    That is total crap about it being the law that you can’t record anyone without their consent. If that is the case than how will anybody catch people doing bad acts toward other people to show proof of it? Do you think the Teacher would tell the child it is OK to record her when the Teacher is bullying another student? Hell No. Not only that, why can our Government agencies and so forth in America record and document us without asking if it’s OK? Hypocrisy of law to gain complete power while doing wrong is what this is all about in America. The bottom line here is that the ones in the wrong need laws to protect them so they can keep on doing what they should be fired for in the first place or thrown in jail for.

    • Cher Kandra Smith

      All of us college students better be careful about recording lectures during class to listen to them later on. We could be slapped with suspension and a law suit for violating the professors right to privacy and recording without consent.

  • Cher Kandra Smith

    The child was punished for doing what was ethically right. Can you say “have second thoughts later on about doing something else ethically right’? Shame on the school for punishing her. Bravo to her AND her parents for a child who understands what right and wrong is. Shame on the teacher for not learning that lesson years ago.

  • lisa

    Absolutely no expectation of privacy when you belittle a student in a public school in front of other students. If the teacher does this in front of the entire classroom why would there be an expectation of privacy. Total crap if you ask me. At least the teacher was fired.

  • Tami Bradley

    TOTAL B.S. !!! Public Schools have the responsibility of assuring that students are protected from “bullies”. And when it’s a teacher that is doing the bullying,,,,,it is the responsibility of “said” school to gather information by any form possible to take appropriate action. When that teacher bullied that student,,,,,,she gave up her right to any “assumed” privacy act. Without this recording,,,they would still be paying this “Moron” to bully her students and get a way with it! So, in Florida,,,if a man shoots another man,,,and some bystander records it,,,,,,WITHOUT HIS PERMISSION, does that mean the bystander goes to jail and the shooter gets off because the evidence was gained illegally???? Same difference

  • Lee

    The main point that is seemingly forgotten yet is posted several times

    Is a public school. Nowhere does it say private or secret. Public is public means recording is legal. If you don’t think so, go back to school and see how many people record lectures. They didn’t ask.
    So when a public school teacher is abusing the students and the school and gov say proof is not legal, is a cover up. The admin should lose their jobs too. Is not legal to bully a kid. Or anyone.
    So sick of all the idiots in charge. So let me in a room all secret with them. Bully me. See where it gets you.

  • americanfaith

    I think the families to these kid/children need to start sueing the school districts for this crap…erroneous suspensions, that is…schools have to give back power to THE PEOPLE…its our schools, not theirs, we pay for them to teach…

  • nmbr1cupcake

    This happens right here in the state of Washington. It happened to my daughter and unfortunately, the teacher is still teaching. She called the students names and made comments that no teacher should make. The principle and vice principle both backed the teacher saying that the recording was illegal because the classroom is a private place where the teacher should be able to expect privacy. My daughter was suspended and my volunteer application denied because I fought the suspension on the basis of it being a public classroom and the teacher got away with her bad behavior.

  • Kenneth Briggs

    the kid was right in what she did , after all not every kid know the laws of the land , but the kid had proof that the dumb ass teacher was wrong , time to get a whole new school board,after all if the little kid did not do nwhat she did no one would of known , I say the girl wasright and I am a 70 year old man from Clearlake , Ca 95422

  • Sonia jackson

    Don’t understand why this child got suspended ,she did nothing wrong and should not be made to feel as she did . This sends mix message either you want people to do the right thing or not . Really , the laws are so screwed up and this is why there is so much abuse that goes in and some people just turn the other cheek . Abuse is abuse and it should not have any privacy law defending that individual . Please let’s see if we can find some where to write letters cards to this child about what a great thing she did so she will know people are behind her and she did right . I know her parents are proud .

  • dee

    #1 what expectation of privacy in a room full of students?
    #2 she can’t record because Florida makes it a crime to intercept or record a “wire, oral, or electronic communication? Then how is it legal for our government to record all of our communications?
    # 3 this seems to be a clear case of bullying, and if the teacher is doing it what chances are there of stopping the children from doing it? What she is teaching them is bullying
    #4 do you really expect us to believe this was a first time, lone incident.
    #5 where has the governing forces of the school been before this?
    I hope the young man and the brave young lady sues the school district

  • Patty b.

    What a bright little girl for having the sense to record something as mean and spiteful as a teacher belittling a student! She will go far in this world! Her parents should be proud. And, whoever the moron is who suspended her, should also be without a job! I certainly hope the school board apologized to the student who had to sit and accept abuse from someone with a college education!

  • Devrie Paradowski

    The girl made a good decision based on her age and her knowledge of the law. Her parents should rightfully praise hr for looking out for her classmates and standing up to authority. That said, this is a tricky situation. A classroom is not public. Not only does the state of Florida outlaw recording conversations when both parties do not have consent, but there are student privacy laws which make this situation dicey for the school. How the teacher directs other students or directs them is part of a private student record, so there certainly is an expectation of privacy in the school based on the laws that safe-guard our students’ privacy in the school.

    Doing the “right thing” is complicated, and there are sometimes consequences, but the internal reward is greater. The girl is clearly too young to have navigated the legal ropes in outing this teacher. Adults should trust the students who have complaints and direct them to get the information they need. The woulda-coulda-should’ves may be irrelevant considering this girls’ age, but perhaps she could have requested someone to listen in for a class period outside the door or something–not recording. She wouldn’t have know that was an option, but now she knows the ramifications for what she did. There are legal ways to win a battle against a wrong and now this child will be stronger and smarter, provided her parents guide her into learning from her innocent and brave mistake.

    So…the school must suspend her. There’s no way out of that. The girl should also be encouraged to keep that fight in her. Her parents should be proud of her (just don’t forget to guide her to communicate with adults effectively for help in these situations)! Bravo Brianna Cooper!

  • ruckus

    so much wrong with this – unfortunately the kid deserves to be suspended, because no one is really teaching them proper cell phone edict. Just like as if you were at work, keep your cell phone locked up so you can concentrate / learn. the I need to have my cell phone on me “incase its an emergency” is such a far fetch excuse I’m surprised they even let kids have cell phones in schools. and obviously the teacher wasn’t exactly right – like I said…. all sorts of wrong with this story. Move on, half of you posters suck at what you do for work as well, whats important is if this person learns and improves. move on.

  • thatcatmando

    No recording and it would have been student’s word vs teacher. I wager this wasn’t the first complaint against the teacher and there is no expectation of privacy in a publicly owned school.

  • M. O'Connor

    I agree, in today’s world of cell phones, a classroom full of students is NOT a private place. And what are you teaching this poor kid? “Don’t bother doing the right thing or trying to help anyone or stop bullying, it’ll just backfire on you.”

  • Lou

    This little girl did a great thing. I WOULD THINK HER AGE would exempt her from being expelled by a law meant for adults. She is after all a minor. Keep doing good young lady!!

  • Mike Haynie

    School administrators and teachers are dumber than the kids they are teaching. Kids getting suspended for pointing fingers (they might shoot another student with said finger) or for doing the right thing such as stopping bullying. The mother may want to get a lawyer because this is a gray area–the teacher is in public and the rules that govern taking people’s picture in public may also apply to a voice recording. Even if the law is correct she could have been given a warning and not a suspension. If I were the parents of the kids in this school I would pull my kids out just because of the bullying not just by the teachers but by the school administrators.

  • pascaltcetran

    I am proud of Briana and her parents , my daughter was stand up for her friend being bully and got suspended too, -well she beat the bully girl ) anyway you did the right thing. Ask your mom to take you out and buy a new dress when you got back to school ,