California High School Accidentally Distributes Child Porn


This week administrators at Big Bear High School in San Bernardino County, California, ordered a yearbook recall while police threatened students with jail if they failed to turn in their copies. The defect that prompted the recall is a photo from a school dance in which two students can be seen messing around in the background. According to A.P., the picture "shows a 17-year-old boy's hand inside the clothing of a 15-year-old girl in a way that suggests sexual penetration." The discovery of this background action (which seems to have been captured unintentionally) rendered the entire yearbook run contraband under California's child pornography law. Hence school officials are taking all the yearbooks back and correcting the problem by "covering the suspect photo with another page or another photograph." A.P. adds that "detectives were contacting students who haven't turned in yearbooks with a warning they could face a charge of possessing child porn," which under state law is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Under that law, it does not matter whether "sexual penetration" actually was occurring when the photo was taken, since pictures of minors "simulating sexual conduct" also count as child pornography. But it does matter whether a person who has the yearbook notices what seems to be happening in the background of the picture, since the penalties apply only to someone who "knowingly possesses" child pornography. If you are a student at Big Bear High School who somehow did not hear about this scandal until you started reading this blog post, I have just transformed you into a criminal. More realistically, school officials, assuming they explained why they were recalling the yearbook, thereby made every student who had not taken a close look at the suddenly controversial image subject to arrest. Indeed, the school officials themselves are guilty of knowingly possessing child pornography from the moment they collect a returned yearbook until they obliterate the offending photo. But since they did not notice the sexual content until after the yearbook was published and handed out (or so they claim), they probably do not have to worry about distribution charges.

California's child pornography penalties are lenient compared to the draconian federal sentencing scheme, which I discuss in the July issue of Reason. Jesse Walker (who noted the yearbook scandal this morning) traced "The Blurry Boundaries of Child Porn" in a 2009 Reason essay.

[Thanks to Mike Spinney for the tip.]

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  1. Can the school administrators please be immediately imprisoned for distribution of child pornography?

    A few hundred counts (one for each book distributed), served consecutively, should be enough to lock them away for life.

  2. Meanwhile, in the U.K. school administrators are urging parents to dress modestly so as to avoid being photographed.…..t-13601917

    I propose adoption of the burqa which should prevent any untoward photography.

    1. Er, urging parents to dress their children modestly.

    2. gis for “burka porn” suggests you are wrong.

      1. Perhaps parents could keep their young daughters out of public view, or just stop sending them to school whatsoever. Then they’d be safe.

      2. Well, yeah. Rule 34 has more evidence than gravity.

  3. Since they know, how can the school collect the yearbooks?

    They arent any kind of legal authority. It would seem that the police would be required to be the drop off point.

    1. Fencing off the school when all students and staff are present and turning into prison seems the safest path.

      We can’t be too careful when it comes to sexual predators.

      1. Whats the CA law on sexual predators and distance from schools? Now that they have seen the photo and know about it, can the students come within 500 feet of the school?

        1. Students are legally required to attend school to avoid being truant, so their very existence should become illegal.

        2. Yes. They can still go to school, and they can still go to jail.

          1. Everyone wins!

    2. “Nuke them from orbit; it’s the only way.”

      Always wanted an excuse to post that. Thanks, Sullum.

  4. If the police are going to threaten children with arrest for hanging onto their yearbooks because they contain porn, then they must have arrested the person responsible for distributing it by now….right?

    1. Being a government employee doing God’s work means never having to say you’re sorry.

  5. shows a 17-year-old boy’s hand inside the clothing of a 15-year-old girl in a way that suggests sexual penetration.

    Somewhere else, I read that the picture was of a kid with his hands down a girls shirt. Now I love titty fucking as much as the next guy, but I would hardly call it penetrative. Hell, you need D cups to even simulate penetration.

    1. Not true. Full C’s will do quite nicely.

      1. If you’re talented it can be done with A’s

        1. There is no way you can stretch A cup titties that far, unless you got a skinny little dick.

          1. Two words: Cincinnati Bowtie.

            Google that shit.

            1. You learn something new every day. Thanks.

              1. You’re very welcome. Also, for shits and gigs, check out the ‘Rusty Trombone’ sometime.

                1. For the love of God, man, don’t do it!

                  1. Fat Crack, we need to party. At least trade notes.

      2. I was with a girl who was a solid C…and it didn’t work very well. I mean it was OK, but I think the extra cushion of the D would drastically improve the situation.

        1. oh it does.

          1. Try some triple D’s. holy mf’er it’s nice.

          2. I wonder if I could get a government grant to investigate.

            1. these days, I’m sure you could.

              1. But only if you’re a lesbian with a strap-on, for diversity’s sake.

                1. it’s a “safe sex” study.

  6. Either way, it’s time for the school to update its mascot.

    1. That made me LOL

    2. Quite appropriate.

    3. Just don’t try to steal Butte County, Idaho’s high school mascot.

      1. I think Warty was a Butte Pirate.

        1. I was a Fightin’ Quaker. No shit.

          1. Huh, I went to a Quaker college myself. But I was a Poet.

  7. Well of course the administrators at “Bear Country” are going miss a picture of a guy groping a gal.

    They were too busy looking at the hairy, burly leather clad dudes in that pic to notice a couple of breeders.

  8. Didn’t a congressman, named Anthony Weiner I think, propose a law that would prevent this kind of thing?

    1. Yes. And it’s high time we passed more laws to prevent more things from happening. When are they going to pass a law banning terrorism? Slackers.

    2. I’m wondering if Tony = Anthony Weiner, as Tony seems to have had a lot more time to post the last day or so.

      1. Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo, ….

    3. Which kind of thing? I hope it’s the stupid overreactions to things that shouldn’t matter.

  9. Well. I guess it’s a good thing this law wasn’t in effect when Polanski was banging that 13 year old.

    She might have been guilty of kiddie porn or something. Lucky for her it happened so long ago so she can stay out of the pokey (um, no pun intended, etc.).

    1. In other news, the Ohio supreme court ruled that a 12 year old boy who had sex with an 11 year old boy is not guilty of statutory rape. The prosecution’s case was that the 12 year old boy engaged in coercion by offering video games and being physically bigger.

      1. NOT GUILTY!! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE ZOMFG!!!!!12345!!!!

        I’m not letting my kids into Ohio, EVER! And they’re 23, 20, and 16…


        1. But but…but Ohio has Cedar Point.

  10. I assume the faculty yearbook advisor(s) apologized profusely and then committed ritual suicide on the school’s front steps.

    1. Peacefully, as it’s a weapons-free zone.

      1. With a spoon then.

        1. That calls for a link to “The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon.” You can thank me later:

  11. Pics or it didn’t happen!

    1. Felon.

    2. I came here to say that.

  12. Saw the photo in question on Fark, and the kid’s hand isn’t even in her dress. His arm is wrapped around her and he’s making an idiotic peace sign while his hand rests on top of her upper chest. She has an open-shouldered dress on and her hand is on top of his. He is not getting to 2nd base by any stretch of the imagination. This story is only spreading because no news outlet will dare show the relevant photo. There is no connotation in their action other than, “Hey we are idiot high school kids smiling and posing for a picture.”

    1. So, wait, this was an overreaction completely blown out of proportion by school and sheriff officials in California? I find that hard to believe. It’s for the children, after all.

      1. Surely you don’t think we actually viewed the photo!

    2. Well, having been a HS boy he might desperately choose to believe he’d gotten there.

    3. Felon.

      1. We’re all Socialists, er Terrorists, er Felons now!

    4. It makes me wonder if the “authorities” who decided that this was kiddy porn have ever actually experienced “penetration” themselves. (Aside from solo activities in Mom’s basement.)

      1. When all you have is the Sears catalog, every picture looks like porn.

    5. The couple you’re describing is not the couple in question.

    6. Shut up, you. We’re having too much fun here.

  13. “Gee, Mr. Principal, I can’t turn it in, my yearbook was stolen out of my car at Taco Bell yesterday.”

    1. Assemble the SWAT team. We need to find that yearbook.

    2. Fuck!

  14. This is such a blatantly obvious attempt at ass-covering by the school officials.

    However, if it’s already hit Fark there’s no way to make it completely go away.

  15. But since they did not notice the sexual content until after the yearbook was published and handed out (or so they claim), they probably do not have to worry about distribution charges.

    Sounds like an issue for the jury to me. Charge ‘im, and let the courts sort it out. Isn’t that how this is done for the Little People?

    And it looks to me like the administrators would lose. Ask them: did you see this picture in the yearbook before it was distributed? They will of course have to answer yes. So, they saw a child porn picture in the book, and they distributed the book knowing that picture was in there. Looks pretty open and shut to me.

    Their only defense is to argue that it wasn’t actually child porn, but I’d say their grotesque overreaction pretty well rules that out.

    1. In a world where the laws were applied equally, that’s what would happen.

      Unfortunately, the photographer (quite possibly a student) would also be charged and would probably take the fall for the adults’ negligence.

      1. Why not? They’ve threatened to criminalize possession.

        I would like to see the prosecutor argue that possessing this picture is illegal, but producing and distributing it is not. If prosecuting the photographer, the editor, the administrators, etc. is a terrible overreaction, then why is threatening to prosecute students who merely possess it not a terrible overreaction?

        1. Cuz some animals are more equal than others.

  16. SWAT teams should be dispatched to the homes of all teachers and administrators to conduct pre-dawn dynamic entry raids to search for copies of this photo or any other similar material and seize any computers or other potential electronic devices on which such images might be stored.

    Leave no dog unshot.

    1. SWAT teams should be dispatched to the homes of all

      Can’t be too safe.

  17. “covering the suspect photo with another page or another photograph.”
    Wouldn’t they still be in possession of the offending image?

    1. it’s perfectly okay for law enforcement or school officials to have child porn – it’s for “research” purposes.

      1. Just ask Pete Townsend.

    2. Yes. The yearbooks are radioactive. Everyone who knowingly looks at the photo in expectation that it will be porn is guilty, and everyone who owns a yearbook is in possession. If the school redistributes the books, then they are guilty of distribution, too.

      Round ’em all up, I say!

  18. If even simulation of an underage sexual act is illegal in CA are the state police going to raid Hollywood and arrest ever actor, director and cameraman that has ever produced a teen movie?

    1. From the that CA law link:
      Even though it may depict children engaged in sexually explicit activities, there are some types of “content” that are excluded from child pornography prosecutions. Possessing “pornographic” images of minors in drawings, figurines, statues

      — or in films that have been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America are exempt from California child pornography laws.

      .. which is quite ironic indeed

  19. Yet another reason why teenagers should be treated differently from children when it comes to sex. It is absurd that a perfectly normal, legal and expected bit of frisky behavior between two consenting teens becomes a major crime just because there is a photo of it.
    Child pornography is terrible. And the fact that this is being called child pornography is downright disgusting. Shouldn’t something have to be, you know, pornography in order to count as child pornography.

  20. I didn’t even know we were calling him ‘Big Bear’!

  21. In other news, child-star Miley Cyrus gyrates on a stripper pole at the Kid’s Choice Awards in Levi-panty things, and Dakota Fanning talks about what its like portraying her character being raped onscreen.

    But all that’s ART!

    1. Links, motherfucker. Links.

  22. When the students return their yearbooks, the cops will have proof that they are in possession of child porn.

    IT’S A TRAP!!!11!!1!one1one

  23. “detectives were contacting students who haven’t turned in yearbooks with a warning they could face a charge of possessing child porn,”

    If I were a detective put on this “case”, I would turn in my badge.

  24. I’ll tell you what’s going on here – a small part of a vast government conspiracy to put The Onion out of business: “Satirize this, motherfucker.”

  25. Thanks for posting. Interesting blog. Great information.

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