Justin and I have both blogged about the case where an assistant principal in Virginia was charged with possession of child pornography after trying to investigate a sexting case through the collection of evidence where a student emailed the evidence (a sexually-explicit picture of a minor) to his office computer. The charges were eventually dropped, and the latest update is that the county school board has decided to remunerate him for his legal fees – which totaled to $167,621.64. While I think the entire ordeal is highly regrettable, I’m pleased that the administrator will be able to recoup his legal expenses – a nontrivial gesture that should help him as he tries to move forward with his life. The concern is that the entire ordeal will likely have a chilling effect on the way school administrators and educators do their job in safeguarding the youth under their care. In fact, that is the general sentiment expressed by the school professionals with whom we share the story. We have to push through the tendency to do nothing, or pass the responsibility to someone else, or trivialize the potential outcomes. As mentioned in weeks past, my hope is that when an adult at school learns about sexting evidence, they immediately contact their school district attorney and local law enforcement. These persons can then thoroughly investigate the case before advising that adult as to how best to discipline those involved. With all of this said, we have got to communicate across counties and states to figure out exactly what policies districts are crafting (and how they are enforcing them) when it comes to students and cell phones in general. I feel this is slowly happening with cyberbullying prevention and response strategies, but not with the issue at hand.
...identifying the causes and consequences of cyberbullying