Lakehead Public Schools education officer Charlie Bishop on Thursday said he was shocked to learn teenagers in Thunder Bay were distributing naked pictures of another Thunder Bay teen via electronic devices.
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Officials with the city’s two main school boards say they are taking seriously allegations that teens were electronically sending naked photos of an underage Thunder Bay girl this week.
While the problem isn’t a school-based one, Lakehead Public Schools education officer Charlie Bishop said the situation is unsettling and one that needed to be addressed by both schools and parents, who often aren’t aware of what their children are doing with smart phones and other electronic devices.
Police are also in the initial stages of investigating the situation.
“It’s a huge concern,” Bishop said. “In light of the Amanda Todd situation it’s a very huge concern. I think that one of our students was alerted to the situation that was happening in the school and had to good sense to come forward and tell administration what was happening.”
Todd is a B.C. teen who killed herself earlier this month after enduring years of torment and bullying after naked pictures she took of herself and forwarded on surfaced on the Internet.
Bishop said they know the pictures turned up in at least on LPS high school, though he declined to name which one.
“When administration recognized what was happening, they immediately notified police.”
According to Const. Julie Tilbury of the Thunder Bay Police Service, this is a serious matter, not something to be swept under the rug as a harmless teenage act.
“We can’t stress how serious this is, especially for the person who is making the images, as well as for anyone who is distributing it,” Tilbury said on Thursday. “It is a criminal offence to distribute any nude photos of anyone under the age of 18.”
Anyone who hit send on their phone after receiving the images in question – or others like them – could face criminal charges, including the distribution of child pornography. Phones and home computers could be subject to permanent seizure, Tilbury added.
It’s a growing problem, one police aren’t sure how to completely combat.
“The reality of this social media world we live in, and the world wide web, it makes it very difficult to contain. At this point in time our officers are working with the school boards to try to find the best possible way to deal with this situation and the education of people who are of that age group to understand what the ramifications are of their actions if they happen to take part in this type of activity,” Tilbury said.
To date no charges have been laid, she added.
Given the nature of the Internet and the permanency of photos that make their way to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, means these pictures could potentially haunt the teenager in them for years to come, possibly preventing employment in the future if uncovered by potential work place supervisors.
St. Ignatius High School vice-principal Kevin Koster said the shockwaves are still rippling through the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, promising faculty and administration take all incidents like this very seriously.
“We deal with them through the Thunder Bay Police and as well if it’s serious like that. And there’s the possibility of suspensions or expulsions if it comes to that, in following the policy,” Koster said, unable to confirm or deny whether or not any TBCDSB students had faced disciplinary action in the case.
“It’s a police investigation,” he said.
Koster noted the advent of smart phones has made these type of incidents much too common, and representatives of both boards said they are working to educated teachers, students and parents of the dangers associated with untamed use of smart phones, iPads and other devices.
One thing’s for sure, he said. It’s a type of behaviour that won’t be tolerated.
“It can happen in your backyard. We need to know that and we need to take it seriously in that regard, and that’s why the education of the youth, going through the policies and procedures and having police come in and do talks to our students in our schools as well is important,” Koster said, adding students in elementary school are being trained on proper use of the Internet.
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