NJ’s Bridgewater-Raritan Superintendent Deals With Sexting

An open letter to the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District Superintendent Cheryl Dyer.

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You may already have heard of the Bridgewater NJ sexting case that fortunately ended up without much fanfare, negative of otherwise. We commend Superintendent Cheryl Dyer and the BRRSD for handling it flawlessly.

In this case, school officials became aware that a number of students had nude or semi nude pictures of other students on their phones on school grounds. According to students quoted, the pictures were originally taken and sent as private messages, but were later more widely distributed via group message.

After consulting with the police, the superintendent sent the letter below to district parents, effectively giving students a short grace period to delete all such images from their devices. We believe that any time issues can be handled by families as opposed to involving the police, it’s a good thing – especially if the worst-case scenario is a child pornography charge.

Dealing with sexting after the fact, especially if pictures are causing a disruption in schools, is something that administrations must deal with. Effectively dealing with sexting, cyberbullying, school threats and the like are areas where schools may want to develop solutions to react more proactively, or at least in real time.

We at ThirdParent would love to talk to Superintendent Dyer, or any other NJ Superintendent, about what the perfect solution would look like. We have significant resources in this area and would be happy to join a discussion with schools about making the situation better. We can be reached via email here.

“Dear Parent/Guardian of BRHS and BRMS students,

It has come to my attention that this week some of the students in our district have knowingly possessed and brought to school nude photos of classmates. The digital photos have been found on students’ cell phones and on their social media pages. Students took photos of themselves and shared them electronically.

As you can imagine the situation has created a host of unfortunate consequences for everyone involved. The educational environment has been disrupted. Students are dealing with the consequences of their actions. Parents, administrators, and counselors are all working diligently trying to take corrective action and educate students about the ramifications of this behavior. Local law enforcement is involved because the photos represent child pornography.

I have been in communication with Chief Manuel Caravela of the Bridgewater Township Police Department and Chief Kenneth McCormick of the Raritan Police Department, who have in turn reviewed our situation with the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. An arrangement has been made at this time to allow the school and local police department to collaborate and work with the students and families involved to handle the situation without the filing of any criminal charges. Please be advised that this arrangement for amnesty is short term through Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Effective Thursday, May 29, 2014 any students involved in the behaviors described above will be subject to the application of the law.

The school district will be working to counsel and if appropriate, discipline the students who have been involved in this situation. Our goal is that this sort of behavior never occurs in our school district. In an effort to make it clear how serious the creation, possession and distribution of this sort of content is, I am directing all of the principals to institute a minimum disciplinary consequences of a 5-day suspension for such infractions. The minimum consequence will be effective beginning Thursday, May 29, 2014 for ANY student who knowingly possesses child pornography at school or who creates and/or distributes such content in a way that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students. Students also risk losing the right to participate in end of school activities such as trips, prom and possibly graduation ceremonies.

I am making a plea to you for your help. Please talk to your child about the serious and possibly long term social, emotional, and legal ramifications that can accompany situations like we are dealing with right now. Reinforce with your child that once they distribute digital content and it gets to the World Wide Web it is impossible to eradicate. Please tell your child that under no circumstances should they be taking nude photos of themselves. Please tell your child that if someone asks them to create such a photo they should say “no” and report the person to a trusted adult. Please tell your child if they receive inappropriate photos they should immediately delete the photo or immediately go to the police station (or school office if at school) with their phone – they should NOT distribute the photo.

Finally, please review with your child all of the digital photos they may have posted or saved on their cell phone, their social media accounts or on other electronic hardware or software. DELETE ALL INAPPROPRIATE CONTENT.

As always, I appreciate your support in helping us to resolve this immediate situation and in educating your child about this crucial topic.

Sincerely,

Cheryl Dyer”

 

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