Moral Panic

Teen Sexting Can Ruin Your Reputation, and To Prove It We're Calling In the Police

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"It was lunchtime at Wagstaff. Touching butts had been banned by the horrible Headmaster Frond. …"
credit: GoodNCrazy / photo on flickr

Another "sexting scandal" has broken out in a middle school in a suburb northwest of Chicago. This case apparently involves a small group of eighth-graders who have been taking "inappropriate pictures" and sharing them with each other.

Because kids are involved and because sex (or perhaps just nudity) is involved, reporting is somehow both a little salacious and weirdly vague. Trying to decipher exactly what happened from both the local CBS affiliate report and the Chicago Tribune report left me scratching my head. And of course, the school administrators got the police involved:

Officials at a Barrington middle school have contacted police about students "sexting" images to other students, and authorities say they are considering criminal charges.

A "small group of … adolescents were recently involved in 'sexting' inappropriate images among themselves using their smartphones," Craig Winkelman, principal of Barrington Middle School-Station Campus, said in an email to parents Monday evening.

Winkelman said disciplinary actions could be "severe" because "sexting among students can affect reputations and disrupt the educational environment." He warned that criminal charges "may also result" from the students' actions.

Winkelman contributes further to the weird vagueness by adding that some of the students were "victimized" in the incident with absolutely no explanation of what that means. One might think he means teens were photographed unknowingly, but then he added that the kids involved are getting counseling, "despite the pending consequences," which makes the teens sound like both the victims and miscreants at the exact same time (which perfectly encapsulates the way America deals with teen sexuality, no?).

The school clearly wants to protect the privacy of the students involved, but the principal's statement is confusing. Was all participation voluntary or not? It probably doesn't matter to the school or most parents, but it should matter when the school bring police into the picture. If there were no adults involved in this incident, and if participation was voluntary, perhaps the scandal is a matter the teens' parents and school administrators can deal with on their own. But no:

[Winkelman] noted the situation isn't unique to the Barrington area and encouraged families to talk to their children about the "life-altering regrets and damage sexting can imprint on a young person's future."

Yes, especially when you call the police on them and threaten them with criminal charges.

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  1. Yes, especially when you call the police on them and threaten them with criminal charges.

    Hey, if it’s good enough for that lady who saw some kids building a fort out of her back window, it’s good enough for everybody.

    1. Hey, if it’s good enough for that lady who saw some kids building a fort out of her back window, it’s good enough for everybody.

      These kids weren’t exactly building a treehouse. Not that sexting is inherently evil but, they apparently weren’t discrete enough about it to keep it away from people who didn’t want to see it.

      Moreover, the officer drew a gun on the treehouse builders, against the intent of pretty much everyone involved. No such escalation or mindless zeal appears to have taken place here.

      When we did this shit as kids without phones, no one decried the police or administrators ruining our lives so much as we just acknowledged we had been caught.

  2. Typical government logic: “This can ruin your life so to keep you from doing it we’ll ruin your life”.

    1. It’s a lot like pot (or any other) prohibition, really. Virtually all of the damage comes from the enforcement of prohibition, since the activity itself is largely harmless to the participants.

    2. I don’t think it’s government logic, I think it’s the sadism and puritanicalism that seems to be inherent in those who are drawn to government. If you want to punish people for what you consider “wicked”, the government is really the place for you.

      1. If you want to punish people for what you consider “wicked”, the government is really the place for you.

        True, I mean, there are only so many employment opportunities in SugarFree’s dungeon.

      2. I think it’s the sadism and puritanicalism that seems to be inherent in those who are drawn to government some people.

  3. Bonus points for whomever gets the alt-text.

    1. Freaky friend fiction!!!

    2. Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    3. Bob’s Burgers? Really? You couldn’t pick a better show?

      1. Spoiling Game of Thrones is one thing. Now you’ve gone too far.

        1. Look, anyone who watches GoT but hasn’t read the books deserves every spoiler they get. And people who watch Bob’s Burgers deserve massive atomic wedgies. MASSIVE.

          1. Ahem.

            Now, Scott. About those points.

          2. I have a crush on the little girl with the rabbit ears, so wedgie away.

    4. The only Wagstaff I know of was the professor in Horse Feathers.

  4. I don’t see how sexting can “ruin your life” except, of curse, when the government steps in to do the ruining. Other than that, how do nude or revealing photos of yourself ruin any lives except those of the prudes who want to pretend sex isn’t a thing?

    1. I don’t see how sexting can “ruin your life” except, of curse, when the government steps in to do the ruining.

      I don’t aim to defend the mindless state education system or a progressive police state, but I can see how an ex-girlfriend sending vag pictures to me at every opportunity would get to be life ruining. Especially if she got creative enough to send any coital photos she may have to the wife.

      But… no details of what the exact problem is with this sexting ‘ring’.

      1. The ruinous part wouldn’t be the picture-sending, it would be sticking your dick in crazy in the first place.

        1. What makes you think that isn’t what drover her crazy?

          I mean, it’s not like I can brand them ‘crazy’ as a warning to the next guy…

        2. But that ignores my point that just because you can imagine the government ruining your life, it doesn’t mean some other circumstances aren’t just as/more likely.

  5. Why don’t schools just ban phones, then it’s not their problem? Oh, right. Schools think that kids’ whole lives are their problem now.

    Sorry to get all “get off my lawn”, but what is it like in schools today when everyone has a phone? When I graduated college, cell phones were just starting to become something that everyone had and not that many people took laptops to lectures. Now I have to wonder, is anyone ever paying attention in class? OR are they all just texting and sending people pictures of their junk all the time?

    1. For those that don’t know, this is Barrington, IL, the student parking lot is filled with Corvettes, Mustangs, Porsches, etc. God forbid the 8th-graders not be allowed to flash their status symbols.

      1. At the *middle School*?

    2. Oh, right. Schools think that kids’ whole lives are their problem now.

      Any evidence the local school or police acted in a manner inconsistent with the parents wishes?

      Or have we libertarians let blind hatred of state-run schools and the police state get in the way of small-town folks dealing with their small town problem.

      /backyard bias

      1. Are you claiming these kids’ parents probably want them to be charged criminally?

        1. Are you claiming these kids’ parents probably want them to be charged criminally?

          Allowing for the fact that the story is surrounded in a veil of secrecy and *no charges have yet been filed*…

          Is it unfathomable for a parent to expect their children to pay the consequences for actions for which they should know better? Or, if not know better, know that being careless and getting caught would cause exactly these issues?

          1. I can’t imagine wanting my child to enter the criminal justice situation over an incident involving sexting. I don’t know any parents who would. But maybe you travel in different crowds.

            1. I can’t imagine wanting my child to enter the criminal justice situation over an incident involving sexting.

              Can you imagine wanting a child to do some community service or get some counselling because they were incessantly sexting your kid? If your kid were incessantly sexting someone else’s kid, you’d certainly take them to counselling rather than have them pulled from school or put in the justice system, right?

              Given that there has been no suggestion of baseless arrest, illegal search/seizure, or excessive use of force, etc. I have to ask why you think this is anything other than parents negotiating civilly amongst themselves with police and school arbitrating?

              Again, there’s no evidence of NAP violation one way or the other (yet), so I really wonder how this really jives with ‘libertarian news’.

              1. ” I have to ask why you think this is anything other than parents negotiating civilly amongst themselves with police and school arbitrating?”

                Parents don’t need the schools and police arbitrating anything. It is none of their business.

              2. If your kid were incessantly sexting someone else’s kid, you’d certainly take them to counseling

                No! Sex is good, dammit! I’d want my kids to have sex as often as possible, as long as possible. You can’t even get fat from it.

          2. You.are.out.of.your.mind if you think for a single second these kids should pay the consequences for their experimentation by being wrung through the legal system. I want to dick you with a verbal backlash but I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt.

  6. Fuck it. If they can’t handle a goddamn camera or texting then send them out with cheap phones that have nothing but call capabilities. I say fuck the state, the schools, the police, and idiot parents if a single kid here gets charged over normal teenage sexual impropriety. BUT, digital networks and teenage boobies and dicks are a horrible mix. These kids need to get back to the safer bad-old days of night time fondling in the backyard with pissed-off (or instructive) parents and groundings. Keep that teenie-bopper sexual experimentation off the interwebs- it teaches kids to be retarded about their private lives.

  7. normal teenage sexual impropriety

    Why the assumption that the kids, parents, administrators, and police are all complete nutjobs?

    I could be wrong but, there may be some actual sexual/sexting impropriety going on. This isn’t the ultra-leftist CPS or some HS guidance counsellor invoking ‘zero-tolerance’…

    If these were 8 yr. old kids who had no clue about sex or didn’t understand the technology, I would get it. But it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that we’re talking about a situation like a group of 14-15 yr. old boys sending photos to and/or coercing photos from an 10-11 yr. old girl.

    This, again, without more clear details of what exactly happened.

    1. “I could be wrong but, there may be some actual sexual/sexting impropriety going on.”

      You are wrong. So wrong a 2×4 verbal harangue upside your cognition would do you some good.

      Teenagers experiment. Period. Teenagers reject normalized standards, gods love’m. So let’s get some good old fashion jesus-lovin’ law enforcement involved because we sure as hell know ol’ Mr Goody-two-shoes with the bullets, taser, and state uniform has the proven history not to be a Gestapo dick willing to utterly destroy lives because his and her brain never developed the intellectual capacity to understand humans who live outside the brick walls of their fraternal order.

      “But it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that we’re talking about a situation like a group of 14-15 yr. old boys sending photos to and/or coercing photos from an 10-11 yr. old girl.”

      Those evil boys. Rotten, filthy, horrible scum that’d fuck trees and mothers. Seriously, your brain is on Cheetos if you think for a split second American female teenagers have no sexual drive.

  8. I have always wondered what message we send our youth by making them criminals for photographing their own bodies.

  9. Winkelman contributes further to the weird vagueness by adding that some of the students were “victimized” in the incident with absolutely no explanation of what that means.

    It’s not hard to guess, though: a girl sent a nude pic to one guy, and he shared it, without her consent, with others. She found out.

    Not the end of the world of course. I’m in complete accord with the author’s thesis: get the freeping cops OUT of this!

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