B y Derek Liebig
The Whitehall Central School District will seek to educate students and parents about the repercussions of “sexting” during a pair of forums next Tuesday.
Representatives from the FBI, New York state police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Washington County Sexual Trauma and Recovery Services (STAR) and the Whitehall Police Department will speak with students and members of the community during two assemblies on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
An assembly for students and faculty will be held at approximately 1 p.m. and a second assembly, for parents (students are welcome to attend, as well), will be held at 6 p.m. Both events will be held in the Whitehall High School auditorium.
“There will be experts on hand who can discuss what’s happening and what could happen,” Kelly McHugh, high school principal said. “It will also be an opportunity for parents and students to ask questions.”
The forum is a follow up to last month’s news that dozens, mostly from Whitehall, had sent or shared via electronic means, explicit photos of underage girls.
While police have not ruled out the possibility that some of those involved could be arrested and face felony charges, the immediate response from local authorities and school officials has been the need for further education.
McHugh said the sharing of photos has become commonplace among teenagers but students and parents need to recognize what is appropriate and what is not.
She said she highly recommends parents of elementary school children attend the forum.
“They’d be wise to attend because soon their children are going to have cell phones.”
Late last year, news broke that a half-dozen law enforcement agencies were investigating a “sexting” scandal in which more than 50 students shared photos of approximately 20 underage girls.
The investigation began after a parent discovered that a girl had sent an inappropriate photo to her boyfriend using her cell phone. The boyfriend then shared the photo with others.
Police discovered the incident was isolated and a number of girls had shared explicit photos with similar results. The photos were then traded amongst boys like they were baseball cards.
The photographs were not shared on school grounds and school officials did not have knowledge of the case until they were informed of the matter by police last fall, authorities said.
At that time, “there was a brain-storming session” between state police, village police, Sexual Trauma and Recovery Services and school officials about corrective action.
McHugh said the district’s guidance counselors and school psychologist have been made available to students to help “pick up the pieces.” She also said a counselor from STAR is at the school every Wednesday to speak with students.
Tuesday’s assemblies will seek to build upon the corrective action local officials have put in place.