The good news: As of last week, all but two copies of Big Bear High School's 2011 yearbook had been collected, and the owners of the remaining copies, who were out of town, had agreed to turn them in when they got back. Presumably that means none of the students will be charged with possession of child pornography, as police threatened to do after administrators at the Southern California school discovered what looked like an accidentally captured sex act in the background of a photo from the winter formal.
The bad news: The 17-year-old boy caught with his hand up a 15-year-old girl's skirt may be charged with "sexual penetration of a minor," which can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. If convicted, he would have to register as a sex offender.
Jeremiah MacKay, a detective with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise:
If someone tells us someone is having sex with a minor, it doesn't matter the age of the suspect, we're required by law to investigate. As much as we know that teenagers go out and have sex, we can't just overlook it.
Under California law, "any person who participates in an act of sexual penetration with another person who is under 18 years of age shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison or in the county jail for a period of not more than one year." The act becomes a felony if the encounter involves "force, violence, duress, menace, or fear," if "the victim is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act," if "the victim is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance," or if "the victim is at the time incapable, because of a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability, of giving legal consent." MacKay told the Press-Enterprise the district attorney's office had not decided yet whether to charge the offense as misdemeanor or a felony.
For more on what registration as a sex offender entails, see my feature story "Perverted Justice" in the July issue of Reason.