Alarmed by the amount of nude photos being sent by students on their cell phones in Williams Lake, Lake City Secondary School staff is hosting a series of information sessions for students and parents.
This week representatives from the RCMP, Victim Services, Youth Probation and Crown Counsel are meeting with students and parents to tackle the issue and stress the legal and emotional consequences of distributing nude images of themselves or others.
“It’s alarming to me, not only because of the amount that it’s happening, but also I don’t think kids your age understand,” vice principal Grant Gustafson said during a session with the Grade 9 boys at the Columneetza campus Tuesday. “There seems to be some uncertainty and disbelief about the severe consequences that can come from it.”
Gustafson told the students the intent of the assemblies is to arm them with tools where they are feeling supported in case an incident happens and knowing how dangerous it can for a young person going forward in their career and life aspirations.
“For us at the school level it’s led to bullying, blackmail and what the kids are calling body shaming,” Gustafson said. “We want to get these issues out here.”
Williams Lake RCMP Const. Eddie Knack said while it is not illegal for two consenting people to send photographs to each other he would advise the students not to.
“Once those photos are out there, especially in the Internet world they cannot be taken off, they are out there,” Const. Knack said. “There are a lot of stories in the media like that of Amanda Todd who committed suicide. It’s very tragic.”
When someone sends nude photographs of someone under the age of 18 then it is defined as distribution of child pornography under the Criminal Code of Canada, he added.
“If you receive an image on your phone and it really bothers you and you go to your counsellor and they contact us and the parents guess what happens,” he said, noting technically the person who sent the photograph can get charged. “If you have nude photographs of a girlfriend or boyfriend and you break up you need to delete those photos because you can still get charged with possession of them.”
Youth probation worker Kelly Culbert told the students that a person charged with distribution of child pornography is treated the same way as any sex offender.
Bail conditions can entail reporting to probation once a week, having no contact with a girlfriend or boyfriend, involving the principal, parents and possibly removing the offender from the school.
The offender’s cell phone can be taken away and they can be denied use of the internet.
“It is really important that you think before you send,” Culbert said. “I would even ask you to stop and think before you ask someone to send you photos.”
She also warned the students that universities and employers hire technicians to search the Internet to see what a prospective students or employees have posted.
Cheryl Jacques and Penny Stavast from Victim Services shared information about the services they offer and what the court system can entail.
“I don’t want to see any of you in the court room, whether I am supporting you or I am watching you up on the stand while somebody testifies against you,” Stavast said.
Jacques told the students they can always call them and ask questions.
“It is awesome your principal and teachers are being proactive,” she said.
Lake City Secondary principal Gregg Gaylord said the school will host an information session on the topic for parents on Wednesday, May 17 at the Williams Lake campus commons at 5:30 p.m.