See editor's note below: Last year, as we've reported, a sexting scandal at Canon City High School was deemed so serious that a football game was canceled out of fear that there wouldn't have been enough uninvolved players to field a full squad — and the school's administration floated threats of felony allegations against participants.
In the end, no students were criminally charged, but the publicity generated by stories of sexually explicit pics traded like Pokemon cards undoubtedly raised awareness of this ongoing issue among educators statewide.
Now, the metro area's Bear Creek K-8 has launched a sexting investigation of its own.
In a letter to parents on view below, Bear Creek principal Victoria J. Kaye revealed that "there might be inappropriate photos of students circulating among other students via social media and mobile devices, commonly called 'sexting.'"
Moreover, she confirmed that police in Lakewood, Bear Creek's home community, as well as personnel with the Jeffco Public Schools, have been contacted, and both are conducting inquiries.
Criminal charges related to sexting by teens are rare but not unknown. Just last week, we told you about the arrest of Aaron Belanger, eighteen, on two counts of sexual exploitation of a child, plus one count of Internet sexual exploitation of a child, for sending explicit images to a young woman via cell phone.
However, there were additional circumstances in the case. Belanger allegedly admitted to a sexual relationship with the girl when she was living in Florida even though she was only thirteen and he was seventeen at the time. Moreover, the girl's father reportedly moved from Florida to Colorado largely to get his daughter away from Belanger, only to discover that they were exchanging sexts.
In many cases, however, charging juveniles with crimes for sexting is counterproductive in the view of Amy Hasinoff, a CU Denver communications professor and the author of Sexting Panic, who we interviewed last year.
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"One of the reasons we have such terrible teen-sexting laws is that people think any girl who would do this must be deviant or mentally ill or pathological," Hasinoff told us. "And that really denies the reality that teenagers are sexting. And it's not just a couple of them."
Nonetheless, a bill that would have reduced sexting from a felony to a misdemeanor failed in the Colorado House last week, just prior to Kaye's letter.
As noted by CBS4, none of the parties involved in the Bear Creek case are talking about the scope of the issue there — although sources suggest that "several eighth-graders" are involved.
It's too soon to tell if these teens will find themselves going through the judicial system as a result of their actions. But you can bet that other schools in Denver will be watching closely to see what happens next at Bear Creek K-8.
Here's the aforementioned letter.
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Editor's note: The original version of this post incorrectly identified the school at which the investigation is taking place as Bear Creek High School, not Bear Creek K-8. The post has been corrected. We regret the error.