VALPARAISO | In response to a January "sexting" incident in which two Benjamin Franklin Middle School students were charged with child pornography for sending nude photos of each other by cell phone, Valparaiso schools have expanded their policy about the practice.
The school board on Tuesday approved addition of a sexting prohibition to elementary, middle and high school handbooks for the coming school year.
The rule prohibits the transmission via personal communication devices of images "reasonably interpreted as indecent or sexually suggestive."
It also outlaws the possession of such images. Violators of the policy will be referred to law enforcement authorities.
Sexting has become "the hot button topic around the country right now," Benjamin Franklin Principal Christopher Fields said.
Even though students may think images they send or receive are innocent and just for fun, they could be in violation of child pornography laws and face conviction as a sex offender, Fields said.
And by law, school officials are required to refer sexting cases to law enforcement and child protection authorities, he said.
To impress the seriousness of the problem on students and prevent violations, all city schools deliver ongoing education about the dangers of sexting.
Those efforts, Fields said, include presentations in the Life Skills and Creating a Safe School programs, advisory periods, Channel One broadcasts, individual sessions with students and social studies and health classes.
The education campaign will continue in the fall as each handbook policy is read and explained to students.
"It's got to come from home, too," Fields said, encouraging parents to talk about and expect responsible cell phone use by their kids.
In the January incident, the two students were referred to juvenile probation on charges of possession of child pornography and child exploitation. In adult court, the charges would carry a maximum penalty of 11 years in prison.
referred to law enforcement
Based on policy wording supplied by the Indiana Schoool Boards Association and ??????, the