As many parents and students in Carmel were preparing for graduations after another successful school year, the Carmel Police Department issued a news release saying it had received a complaint regarding Carmel High School students in possession of inappropriate digital images on electronic devices.
The Carmel Police Department then contacted the Carmel schools administration and immediately began an investigation. That investigation is ongoing.
But the cryptic news release left more questions than answers. Such as what crime were police investigating? But despite repeated inquiries, neither the police nor the prosecutor’s office would confirm the purpose of the investigation.
The school officials were also mum. The district’s spokeswoman is on leave and the executive secretary, who had been filling in for that role, was on vacation. Both Superintendent Nicholas Wahl and CHS principal John Williams declined to comment. Even members of the school board said they had not been briefed on the situation.
The lack of clear purpose or basic answers has led to wild speculation in the television news outlets, another area newspaper and on Twitter with multiple students referring to the investigation as the “Freshman Holocaust,” in reference to a number of suspensions stemming from the incident.
If charges eventually are brought, they could be serious.
Under Indiana Code 35-42-4-4(b), it is a Class C Felony for a person to photograph or disseminate or exhibit to another person matter that depicts or describes sexual conduct by a child under 18 years of age. “Sexual conduct” as defined in Indiana Code 35-42-4-4(a)(4), can include exhibition of uncovered genitals or the female breast with less than an opaque covering over any part of the nipple. Under Indiana Code 35-42-4-4(c), it is a Class D Felony for a person to possess a photograph that depicts or describes sexual conduct by a child under 18 years of age that that lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
If the investigation does center around sexting – the exchange of explicit photos via smart phones – it’s unclear how this particular incident resulted in a police investigation.
It’s a fairly common practice. In fact a Sept 2012 study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine conducted over a three year period found that 28 percent of teens reported having sent a naked picture of themselves through text or e-mail, 31 percent reported having asked someone for a sext and 57 percent had been asked to send a sext.
Given its prevalence and the fact that posters on the walls of CHS discuss how to respond if someone requests a sext, the school administrators likely have a policy on how to deal with sexting cases. However no school officials accepted multiple opportunities to discuss school policies regarding sexting.
The most likely reason that police were involved would stem from a parental complaint or a teacher reporting information that was found at the school. In fact teachers are mandatory reporters in some cases.
Indiana Code 31-33-5 (on the duty to report child abuse or neglect) states that a person who has a duty under this law to report that a child may be a victim of child abuse or neglect shall immediately make an oral report to the state department of child services or the local law enforcement agency.
But absent any facts, knowledge of school policies or the correct laws to apply, one lingering questions remains: Is this a police matter?
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