At least four Chaparral High School students are suspected of distributing graphic photos of another student.
A school resource officer served a warrant to four unidentified juveniles Feb. 14 in Douglas County’s latest sexting case. However, no one was taken into custody and no charges have been filed.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has recently put more emphasis on educating students about the dangers of sexting, which involves the sending of sexually explicit text messages or photographs. But the tech-based crime continues to be a “big issue here,” said Lt. Glen Peitzmeier, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.
The confiscation of the phones took place at Chaparral High in Parker because that “just happens to be where we knew the phones were,” he said.
“It may have been something that happened outside of school. More than likely it probably did,” Peitzmeier said. “Our goal is to prevent those pictures from going any further.”
Sexting-prevention education is part of the sheriff office’s Y.E.S.S. program, which stands for Youth Education and Safety in School. The curriculum is taught to all Douglas County high school students and includes lessons on cyberbullying, suicide prevention and substance abuse.
Peitzmeier said he is unsure what prompted the Chaparral investigation, but said it’s often word-of-mouth that eventually gets back to a parent. Although there has been talk about altering the laws to account for juvenile behavior and prevent a teen from becoming labeled as a sex offender, the students still face serious consequences for their actions.
“Even if it’s a 15-year-old sending a picture of themselves naked to another 15-year-old, that’s still against the law,” Peitzmeier said.
It will be up to prosecutors with the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to determine appropriate charges, which could include felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child or distribution of child pornography.
Parents are sometimes unaware of the tools that can be used in sending inappropriate messages, including Skype and cell phones. The kids must consider the future ramifications of sexting, including charges that could follow them when applying for college or a job, Peitzmeier said.
“It’s something that could be with them forever. It’s kind of scary and sad,” he said. “Our big thing is to get kids educated.”