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Teens face charges of child porn after repeated sexting

Published: Saturday, May 3, 2014 12:05 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 3, 2014 12:12 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
Two Station Middle School male juveniles have been charged with the possession of child pornography following a school-wide sexting case that publicly surfaced the week of April 1. One of the offenders most recently showed a classmate a sexually explicit image on his cellphone Monday (April 28). The classmate came forward and told adults.

BARRINGTON – Barrington 220 school administrators are speaking out this week as two 14-year-old male Station Middle School students have been charged with multiple counts of possessing and disseminating child pornography.

The first offender, arrested Wednesday, had disseminated sexually explicit videos and photographs March 30. He repeated a similar offense Monday, according to Barrington Police Chief David Dorn.

“Clearly the school’s disciplinary action and pending police consequences were not enough to deter him from doing it again,” Dorn said.

The second offender, arrested Thursday, transmitted sexually explicit photographs and was in possession of similar video April 2, according to police.

Police said the students have been released to family members, but further disciplinary action could result both in juvenile courts and in the school district.

Dorn said once the two offenders received the original sexually explicit material, they redistributed it to a larger group of classmates by way of text message.

“There were far more than five students involved,” Dorn said. “It was in no way a small circle of students who received the images.”

Barrington 220 Superintendent Tom Leonard said a Class 2 felony could result in this case.

“These students’ futures may be forever stamped by the careless use of an app, the tease of a text message and the unthinking post of an indecent photo,” Leonard said.

Barrington 220 Spokesman Jeff Arnett said the sexually inappropriate images of both male and female students were taken outside of school and brought to administrators’ attention the week of April 1.

School officials originally said all images were retrieved and deleted from the students’ cellphone devices with the help of police.

However, Arnett confirmed Friday that the first offender had again showed a sexually inappropriate image to a classmate Monday.

Dorn said the offender had shown a classmate images of “two more victims” on his cellphone.

Arnett said once the classmate became aware of the offense, they brought it to the attention of school administrators who then alerted the police.

“The second offense added to the severity and urgency of the original police investigation and eventual charges by the state’s attorney,” Arnett said.

The subsequent offense occurred with a new cellphone, presumably provided by the family after the earlier cellphone involved in the original offense had been confiscated by police, Arnett said.

Arnett said the images found on the new cellphone had not been seen before.

They were shown to another student on the cellphone’s screen – not distributed electronically as in the first incident, Arnett said.

Arnett could not confirm whether one or both students are presently in school due to confidentiality rules, but further disciplinary action is being considered, he said.

Dorn said he does not foresee more students being charged in this case but “the case is ongoing in the sense of helping victims,

“We continue to encourage people to come forward with information about victims involved.”

Arnett said this is not a first time for sexting to surface within Barrington schools, and although middle and high school students are “regularly taught about safe online behaviors,” the district is considering introducing “age-appropriate lessons” on sexting in upper elementary grades.

“If anything, this incident will lead to sexting and Internet dangers being addressed at a younger age, perhaps to fourth and fifth-graders who use cellphones on their bus rides to and from school,” Arnett said.

Leonard, too, said the “gravity of sexting” must be a communitywide concern because the issue is “not just isolated to middle and high school students.”

“As smartphones become more prevalent and popular with grade school children, instances of inappropriate use are surfacing among younger ages to the point all parents should be mindful of dangers,” Leonard said.

Internet Safety Specialist Melissa Hemzacek of the Illinois Attorney General’s High-Tech Crime Bureau will address Barrington 220 parents at 6:30 p.m. May 20 at Station Middle School, 215 Eastern Ave. in Barrington. The event is open to Barrington 220 parents of all-aged students.

A parent coffee and panel discussion will be held the following morning at 9 a.m. May 21 in the Guidance Resource Center at Barrington High School, 616 W Main St., in Barrington. This event will cover a more in-depth conversation about the topic of Internet safety and sexting.

Barrington Police and the Barrington 220 School District have released the following tips for parents:

• Talk with your student and set guidelines on appropriate use of their phones. This means no inappropriate texts or embarrassing photos or videos. Photos and videos have lasting effects when shared via social media.

• Tell your teen that sexually explicit material of any kind is not allowed. Have your child “friend” you or allow you into his or her social media circle (Facebook, Instagram, KIK, etc.) This will allow you to monitor for questionable activity.

• While your student may not think it is a good idea, you must look through their phone and monitor his or her usage. If the device contains a pass code, they should provide you with access.

• Establish real consequences when parental rules or boundaries are broken and enforce them. A parent can cancel or suspect access to cellphone services if a child does not follow established rules.

• Teens should always think about the consequences of taking, sending or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, even if it is of themselves. Students can be removed from sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities and get in trouble with law enforcement.

• Teens should never take images of themselves that they would not want everyone – classmates, teachers, family members or employers – to see.

• Before hitting send, teens must know they cannot control where an image may travel. When it is sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend, it would easily end up with other friends, and their friends, and their friends.

• If a person forwards a sexual image of someone underage, that recipient is as responsible for that image as the original sender. A distributor could face child pornography charges, go to jail and be required to register as a sex offender.

• Teens must report any nude pictures they receive on a technology device to a trusted adult such as a parent or a school counselor. They should not delete the message. Instead, they should involve parents or guardians, teachers or school counselors immediately.

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