Sexting incidents at El Roble involved numerous students, DA to review

A social media sexting scandal has rocked El Roble Intermediate School, leading to the questioning of more than a dozen students.

The incidents were first reported to the school’s student resource officer around 8 a.m. on Thursday, December 17, according to the police report. The situation involved 15 students sending and receiving nude pictures of themselves on the social media apps Snapchat and Kik, according to Lt. Mike Ciszek of the Claremont Police Department.

The app Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos, often called snaps, to friends. The friends can view the snaps for up to 10 seconds, at which time the image or video will disappear. If the person receiving the photo decides to “capture” the image via a screen grab, it can then be forwarded and shared among any number of people.

Claremont Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Mike Bateman did not elaborate on the incidents or any kind of punishment, only saying that it was “handled appropriately” within district guidelines.

“There are board policies regarding social media use by students like sexting, for example,” Mr. Bateman said. “When a student or students violate those, there are disciplinary actions. We take it very seriously.”

Lt. Ciszek said the students involved had technically broken child pornography laws, adding the students are considered both suspects and victims.

“They’re suspects because they are sending photos, and they’re considered victims because it’s their image in the photos,” Lt. Ciszek said.

The state of California does not currently have laws written specifically to address teen sexting. Currently individuals, regardless of age, who produce, distribute or possess an image of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct are committing a felony.

Regardless of age, if the individual is tried as an adult under the current state child pornography statutes, then he or she could receive a sentence of up to six years in jail and will typically be required to register as a sex offender with additional court fines into the thousands of dollars.

California lawmakers have recently proposed a bill that would make it illegal for a minor to take, send or receive a sexually explicit image of a minor. If the offender is under the age of 18, the punishment would be community service and mandatory counseling to be paid for by his or her parents.

The Center for Innovative Public Health Research (CIPHR) defines sexting as sending or showing someone “sexual pictures of yourself where you were nude or nearly nude.”

In recent study, the CIPHR determined that nationally only three to seven percent of teens are sexting. However, one incident can “take over a school,” the CIPHR reports.

“Even if only five percent of youth are sexting at your child’s high school, this translates to one in 20 students—almost one student in every class and more than enough to keep the rumor mill running,” the CIPHR report explains.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends talking openly with teens about social media. The first step for parents, the AAP says, is to learn about the technologies firsthand.

Other recommendations include keeping the home computer in a public part of your home, talking with other parents about what apps their kids are using and emphasizing that everything sent over a cell phone or the Internet can be shared with the entire world in a moment’s notice.

The DA has yet to rule on the matter at El Roble, because nobody involved has yet been arrested or charged by police.

Mr. Bateman says the district has been teaching students how to behave appropriately on social media.

“We’re constantly doing training for our kids and our teachers are continually dealing with our kids,” Mr. Bateman said.”

The investigation is ongoing.

—Matthew Bramlett


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