After 'sexting' incidents involving middle schoolers, Saline forum will look at cyber safety
Local law enforcement will join child advocates and members of the Saline Area Schools in a forum on cyber safety this Wednesday in the wake of multiple “sexting” incidents involving middle school students. The event, dubbed “Stop. Think. Connect: Do you know what your kids are doing on-line,” begins at 7 p.m. at the Saline Middle School Auditorium and is open to students, parents and the public.
- See a flier for the event by clicking here.
It is organized by the district in partnership with the Washtenaw Area Council for Children and will feature presentations by Saline Police Detective Don Lupi and Ritchie Coleman, public safety community coordinator with the Pittsfield Township Department of Public Safety.
Since January, Saline police have investigated three separate reports of Saline Middle School students that shared sexually explicit photos of themselves with others via cellphone or other handheld technology. Prosecutors charged four students ages 13 and 14 with disturbing the peace in two of the incidents reported in January. The charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to 90 days in juvenile detention and/or a $500 fine.
“After the incidents we’ve had, I think it’s important to do this because it’s a very serious issue that I don’t think kids understand the full impact of,” Saline Police Chief Paul Bunten said. “It’s up to the parents to teach them how serious this is, but we can certainly help.”
In one case resulting in charges, a 13-year-old boy sent a female student a picture of his genitals via cellphone, which was then shared with at least one other student. The other incident involved multiple pictures taken by a different female student of herself in her bra and underwear, and then nude, police reports said. One of the photos was reportedly taken in a school bathroom on a dare.
School officials learned of the photos from other students and confiscated the phones before contacting police. Other students were reportedly involved, but charges were not authorized, officials said.
School officials declined to comment on the cases, which are still pending.
Lupi said he believed the cases fit under Michigan’s child pornography statute, but understood why prosecutors opted for the lower charges in juvenile court because of the student’s naivetÃ©.
“But each case is different and there may be different charges the next time this happens,” he said. “I don’t think kids realize the gravity of sending what they think is something harmless to a boyfriend or a girlfriend. This is very serious considering the power of technology today and serious charges could apply.”
Another incident involving a female middle school student who received an email containing a photo of a 15-year-old classmate’s genitalia on her Apple iPod occurred in February and was reported to police about a month later, reports show. No charges were filed in that case.
Saline police also investigated two separate reports of students at the school exchanging nude photos and other sexual content via cell phone during the final months of the previous school year. Those cases were forwarded to prosecutors, who denied charges.