About four dozen high school students have been disciplined after authorities uncovered a sexting scandal in which the classmates, aged 14 to 17, sent explicit photos to one another.
Last month, a parent informed the principal of Georgia’s Union County High School of the illegal photo exchange, which led to a larger investigation, according to WSB-TV. Police determined athat t least 46 students were involved in the incident, but Union County Schools superintendent John Hill says that number could be closer to 50 — accounting for 6% of the school’s population of 850 students.
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Hill realizes the situation is more than mere misconduct — but he’s not convinced the students do. “In Georgia, if you’re under the age of 18, [sexting nude photos is] actually manufacturing and distribution of child pornography,” he said. “Most of the kids do not have a clue that they are committing a crime.”
That’s why the district chose not to press felony charges, though they could have.
Instead, the students were disciplined per the Union County School District’s code of conduct, which involves punishments including short-term suspension and alternative schooling, based on the severity of each student’s transgression. The district will supplement this next year with a new curriculum on cyber safety for all students.
The district will also educate parents and caretakers of high school and middle school students, starting with an upcoming community meeting on sexting, led by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
“We feel like it’s important to educate the children and educate the parents about the seriousness of the crime,” Hill said.
The GBI and the district attorney have already made presentations to Union County students about sexting, according to WSB-TV. They taught the students that nude photos sent electronically could easily find their way to child predators — though Hill has confirmed that authorities have no reason to believe that’s the case with any of the photos involved in the scandal.
According to DoSomething.org, an organization that helps guide young people, 24% of high-school-age teens have been involved in nude sexting, and 61% of all teen girls and boys who have sent nude images admit that they were pressured to do it at least once.
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