NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Police investigated two unrelated incidents of middle and high school students who took inappropriate photos of themselves and shared them via social media.
The first incident occurred Feb. 10 at North Ridgeville High School and resulted in a pair of 16-year-olds being referred to county Juvenile Court authorities on several charges.
“These kids were basically engaging in a case of ‘show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ kind of behavior,” North Ridgeville police Officer Calvin Cross said of the incident at the high school in which the 16-year-olds, one male, one female, took smartphone photos of their genitalia and distributed them.
Cross serves as the district’s school resource officer.
Both students were referred to juvenile authorities on charges of disseminating and pandering obscenity involving a minor, while the male also was cited for disseminating material harmful to juveniles.
The second incident occurred Feb. 17 when three North Ridgeville Middle School pupils — two girls ages 13 and 14, and a 14-year-old boy — were cited for a similar situation.
“A young man had taken a picture of himself and sent it to a young lady outside the jurisdiction, and she forwarded it to a couple of other kids,” Cross said.
Superintendent James Powell said the incident involving the middle school students occurred off school property, so school officials will take no disciplinary measures against them.
Powell said Thursday he did not know whether the high school students had remained in school since the incident involving them or whether they had been suspended.
“It typically depends on the severity of the offense,” Powell said. “I don’t know their status at the moment.”
Both Cross and Powell agreed the incidents are representative of an unfortunate but increasing trend.
“We’re seeing more of this nowadays with technology and juveniles,” Cross said. “Back when we were their age, you had to get a camera, take photos and get the film developed. It took five or seven days to get the pictures back so they could be sent or passed around. Now it takes five to seven seconds.”
And with such speed comes a lack of time to think about the consequences of such spur-of-the-moment acts.
“They may realize later that was stupid, but now it’s out there,” Cross said. “They don’t realize the potential damage it could do to someone’s reputation.”
“This is getting to be so common that now we’re trying to educate (students) why this is unlawful,” he said. “They may think of it as a prank, but it’s a serious offense. Our goal is to teach kids appropriate use of technology so they understand the impact its negative uses can have on them.”
Photos of a sexually explicit nature taken and disseminated by anyone under the age of 18 are regarded as child pornography, Cross said.
“And if they send it to someone whether by text or email, or just passing around a phone, that’s disseminating pornographic material,” Cross said. “It’s a crime.”
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.