Massive High School Sexting Ring of 100-plus High Schoolers and Middle Schoolers Busted in Colorado

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Dozens of high school and middle school students in Cañon City, Colorado are facing the possibility of felony child pornography charges (and having to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives) in one of the largest underage sexting scandals to date.

Sexting is the act of sending naked pictures of yourself (or parts of yourself) via text message or a smartphone app. As long ago as 2009, we reported that 20% of teens admitted to sexting, and a) we’re sure there were more who didn’t admit it, and b) we’re sure that the percentage is even higher now.

It was just like any other trading cards system, except that the player cards are traded by cell phone. And they are pictures of naked people. That you go to school with. And who are underaged.

Certainly that holds true for the teens in Cañon City, where more than 100 high school and middle school students at Cañon City High School were part of a sexting ring.

George Welsh, Superintendent for Cañon City schools, told the New York Times that there were 300 to 400 sexted photographs of the students circulating, and that there were “certainly over 100 different kids,” including both high schoolers and 8th grade middle schoolers. At least some of the kids were using so-called “vault apps”, meaning smartphone apps designed to lock away images, and (in some cases) designed to look like another, more innocent app such as a calculator.

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Moreover, the sexting ring appears to have emanated from the high school football team, the Cañon City Tigers. {Ed. note: Why is it always the football team that’s at the center of these things?} Welsh said in a statement that “because a large number of our high school football players were implicated in this behavior, the coaching staff and administration, after careful thought and consideration, decided that stepping on the field to play this weekend to represent the Cañon City community is just not an option.”

Cañon City is a small town with a population just a little over 16,000, and with 100+ students participating, that was a significant percentage of the student population, said Welsh, adding that it seemed that girls and boys participated in the sexting ring about equally.

And this was clearly an organized effort: pictures had been assigned point values, based at least in part on which student was featured in the picture, and with a competition to collect the most points – and the most valuable pictures.

In other words, it is just like any other trading cards system, except that the player cards are traded by cell phone. And they are pictures of naked people. That you go to school with. And who are underaged.

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And of course it is that underaged aspect which makes it most problematic, not to mention illegal.

Local authorities are still trying to determine how and whether to proceed with prosecution. Because each image is a picture of someone under the age of 18, that is technically child pornography. Which means that every time one of the teens pressed ‘send’ on a picture of themselves or someone else, they were engaging in, potentially, felony distribution of child pornography.

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Just a few months ago we covered a story in which a teenager was being prosecuted as an adult for having naked pictures on his phone – of himself!

But even that is nothing new – we first reported a teen facing child pornography charges for sending nude pictures of herself back in 2008.

And yet, despite the social, psychological, and legal risks, sexting is clearly on the rise, with seemingly no effective way to deal with it, let alone discourage it.

Amy Hasinoff, author of the book Sexting Panic, told the Times that schools just need to figure out how to talk with students about the issue, saying that educators should “aim for open conversations that involve guidance in ‘safer sexting’ with trusted partners.

We think that’s one of the more ridiculous things we’ve heard, but we have to admit that we don’t have any better suggestions. If anybody out there does, we’d love to hear them.

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One thought on “Massive High School Sexting Ring of 100-plus High Schoolers and Middle Schoolers Busted in Colorado

  1. Take away the “tech tech tech emphasis” on education…. Ban cell phones in schools, so the schools will not be “complicit in pornography”.

    In the meantime, charge ALL the kids involved (Photos do not get uploaded or shared on their own!). While you are at it ALSO charge the teachers, and admins, who surely knew about it. (A special charge, with short term, mainly financial and ego ramifications. Keep it on record, so that if it happens again… But other than a fine and a dressing down, let the charge have no other effects.)

    Ban the kids from having tech for a year or three. I’d expel all the kids involved for a year, which would really affect them. (A lesson they would recall the rest of their lives, I would gather. Which might influence how they raise their kids…)

    Also, slice the admins salaries WAY down, say a 25-30% pay cut… THEY WERE IN CHARGE. (Don’t worry, they are well paid to begin with, and will get their money back later on through the system of automatic raises, that exists.) I’d also fine the teachers, because their wallets is the ONLY way to get to their hearts. Don’t worry, they would then notice and care. And come up with answers to these problems. And as for the parents, where the hella were they? Asleep at the switch. Charges and fines for them, too. Then they will maybe pay attention to their kids.

    Go WIDE on the publicity. Make sure the story goes viral. Require every newspaper, TV, Radio, magazine, ans “e-outlet” to carry it as a lead, repeatedly. HEAVY fines for failure to make that the topic of the day.

    Other kids will then ACTUALLY SEE the effects, and then wisen up … And quickly too, I would imagine. And the admins and teachers at other schools will wake up, and actually perhaps do their jobs. And other parents will also benefit from the warming.

    Draconian? Yes. BUT: Effective, YES! See, sometimes there have to be consequences. Kids need to learn that. Early. And so do adults.

    The other option, is to legalize pornography. GIVE the kids porn. Lots of it. Bury them in it. Make Porn and its access, a MANDATORY course in school. When you have too much of something, it becomes a valueless good. And you no longer want it. Basic economics!

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