By Ben Terris
At least two students from a Newton middle school were involved in sending suggestive photographs via text message, prompting administrators to hold an assembly last month to discuss the dangers of “sexting.”
The story broke in the latest edition of The Daytime, a student newspaper at the FA Day Middle School, and was confirmed Tuesday by school officials in Newton.
“We know about at least two students who were involved, but who knows how many examples of this are out there,” said Brenda Keegan, Deputy Superintendent of Newton Public Schools. “We wanted to take quick action on an educational level and make sure we nipped it in the bud as soon as we heard anything.”
Principal Gina Healy said she made the rules and laws regarding sexting clear to the students in the assembly. The distribution of pornographic images to minors, as well as the possession of these pictures is against the law.
The Daytime reported that "As shocking as it may seem, a small number of 8th grade students here at Day have sent nude photographs via cell phone to their classmates. Once classmates received these messages, some continued to transmit them."
A Globe reporter asked the principal if that paragraph of the article was accurate, and she said it was.
The incidents are alleged to have taken place off campus, and came to the attention of school administrators last month, according to Healy. School offiicals emphasized that right now their main focus is on teaching students about the issue, not on handing out punishments.
“Our approach has been to educate kids, in a time when there are all these new technologies out there,” Healy said. “Our number one job has been to help kids make good decisions, that’s been our focus since the beginning.”
No incidents have been officially reported to the Newton Police Department, but the school did put in a call to ask about hypothetical consequences.
“Any situation with sexting would have to be looked at on a case-to-case basis,” police spokesman Lt. Bruce Apotheker said in an interview with the Globe. “This is all so new that nothing is set in stone right now regarding how to deal with it. It depends on the intent, it depends on what exactly was sent. We are going to work closely training schools on this issue, because kids need to know once you send something out there, it’s out there forever.”
The Day School is by no means the first place to be affected by sexting. In Billerica this year, authorities investigated the case of a risque photo of a 14 year old girl that was circulating by text message.
According to a recent study done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com 20 percent of teens surveyed have electronically sent/posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves.
The study surveyed 653 teens and 627 young adults, and found that 22 percent of teen girls, 18 percent of teen boys, and 11 percent of young teen girls (ages 13-16) have sent provocative images of themselves to others.
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