Family Wants Apology For Duct-Taped Son
PITTSBURGH — Austin Babinsack was a victim of bullies when two teammates duct-taped the Highlands High School soccer player who has autism to a goalpost and abandoned him for 20 minutes earlier this month.
Afterward, when those teammates were suspended from school and the team, Austin, 16, was again the target of bullies who took to the Internet to condemn him and support the boys who were suspended.
Now school officials and his family are working to make sure the bullying ends on all fronts.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
On Monday Austin’s parents and attorney Phil DiLucente met with Highlands Superintendent Michael Bjalobok and special education director Debra Lehew to discuss how to prevent future bullying and move the district past the incident.
The meeting was conducted as the suspended teammates prepare to return to classes. They were initially given five-day out-of-school suspensions, but the district later added some in-school suspension days, the superintendent said. The two “will be returning shortly” to regular classes, Bjalobok said. Austin has been back at school since several days after the Oct. 5 incident.
At the Monday meeting district officials made it clear they will not tolerate online bullying or harassment and will use the discipline code to punish those who post items to social media, even outside of school, that could be considered bullying or disruptive to the school day.
“There’s not going to be any further bullying permitted of Austin in school or any third-party bullying through social media,” DiLucente said.
Bjalobok said the district is simply reinforcing its existing policy to discipline students for social media posts that affect school life.
“That is our policy, and we stand by it,” the superintendent said. “We are trying to help the family heal, the community heal and Highlands heal.”
The superintendent said Austin and the school district were the topics of negative posts on social media.
“There were comments made about people, the families and the school district that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.
Highlands has an enrollment of about 2,500 students and serves the communities of Brackenridge and Tarentum boroughs and Fawn and Harrison townships.
Harrison police, who are investigating the incident, have not said if they will file criminal charges and could not be reached for comment.
DiLucente said the Babinsack family is not pushing for criminal charges but would rather have a meeting between Austin and the two teammates in which the boys would apologize to Austin “with contingencies of awareness education and community service.”