Last December, 14-year-old Jordan Peisner was the victim of a vicious sucker punch in an attack in West Hills that caused a multitude of traumatic brain injuries, and that was recorded on video and posted on the internet.
Jordan has since become the inspiration for a new law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 11, that is intended to curtail assaults planned for the purpose of posting onto social media.
Known as “Jordan’s Law,” Assembly Bill 1542 came about after Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, whose 45th District covers much of the West San Fernando Valley, saw the video of the attack on local news outlets.
Jordan was hit from behind by a stranger outside of a Wendy’s restaurant in the Platt Village Shopping Center. The gruesome attack — which resulted in him being airlifted to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where he spent a week recovering — was captured on cellphone video and posted on Snapchat.
Dababneh is close friends with Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, the former congregation of Ed Peisner, Jordan’s father. Vogel put Dababneh in touch with Peisner, and the two quickly set up a meeting.
“To me it wasn’t viral, it was vile.” — Matt Dababneh
“To me it wasn’t viral, it was vile,” Dababneh said of the video. “After meeting with Ed, we knew there needed to be a change to the laws to catch up with technology, which is usually the case if you want to solve real-world problems.”
Ed Peisner and Dababneh fine-tuned the bill’s language over many months to address concerns with First Amendment issues. With the help of State Sen. Harry Stern, the bill eventually made its way to the governor’s desk.
The law adds a year onto a felony sentence when an attacker conspires to have an assault video-recorded, and establishes a new felony for conspiring with an attacker to video-record a crime.
Although the new law won’t change the fact that the teen-age girl who shot and posted the video of the attack on Jordan was not charged with a crime, Ed Peisner stressed that he sees it as a mechanism for change.
“The goal isn’t to jail kids,” he said. “It’s a teaching tool, to hopefully let them think before they post. This is someone trying to take the worst moment of your life and to make it the best moment of their life. For notoriety or for likes? It’s that thinking we have to change.”
After Jordan’s release from the hospital, his father established the Jordan Strong Foundation, a grass-roots organization with the goal of helping to curb bullying. Ed Peisner has used the foundation to organize speeches at Los Angeles-area high schools, covering topics like the dangers of cyber bullying and using exercises that promote empathy.
“We talk about empathy online, suicidal awareness, bystander versus upstander, how to use smartphones for good versus as a weapon like it was in my son’s case. We’re trying to put together modules to teach kids real-life stuff that isn’t necessarily covered in school,” he said.
Through a mutual friend, Ed Peisner was connected with Michaela Paige, a 21-year-old singer and former contestant on the popular television show “The Voice.” A prominent anti-bullying activist, Paige has joined Peisner at several speaking engagements, including one last week in front of more than 2,000 students during two days of talks at Calabasas High School.
“We’re very lucky to have her,” he said. “We had a line of 100 students waiting to talk to her and many cried to her when they opened up. It was the most fulfilling two days of my life. These kids were so in need of someone to connect to and to not feel alone. It was amazing.”
Ed Peisner said Jordan is back in school but still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms, including headaches and bouts with depression. Jordan meets regularly with a therapist and neurologists to monitor his progress. An avid skateboarder before the attack, Jordan no longer partakes in the activity, since, as one of his neurologists put it, “the next brain injury could be his last.”
“On top of all that, he’s just a regular 15-year-old boy,” Ed Peisner said.
After running his family’s merchant-services business for decades, Ed Peisner now spends most of his time running the foundation.
“If I could speak at schools five days a week, I’d do that until my last breath leaves my body,” he said. “I just want to help kids.”