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Another day, a little child pornography...

I don't think I will ever come to a point where I will confidently say that I have "seen it all". Each time I encounter a new experience, I am continually amazed at where this position leads me.

Recently, a parent in our school community brought to our attention a video that his son had received that was of an obviously under-aged girl who had filmed herself doing what can only be described as a risque strip tease. He also showed us screen shots of chats between his son and other students at our school about this video. The magnitude of this situation presented itself very clearly immediately. Both myself and my partner took on this investigation. Naturally, our concerns were centred on the identity of this girl and just how many people had seen and distributed this video. Admittedly, it was very difficult to keep my anger and disappointment in check. We had invested time and resources about this very issue in an earnest attempt to educate our students not only on the moral and ethical issues, but the very real and irrevocable legal implications as well.

The investigation became all-consuming for the better part of a week. Interview after interview, we traced the distribution of this video from student to student. Our findings took us outside of the walls of our own school and across the region. When we took a close look at the managerie of voyeurs that we had accumulated in both our offices, we both commented on how these kids were, what could only be described as, the unusual or unlikely suspects. All were boys that had NEVER seen the inside of their VP's office, earned good grades, are well-liked by staff and other students. This was becoming more of a head-scratcher for us. I know that just because a student has never been in trouble doesn't mean it can't or won't happen but it just didn't make a lot of sense. The more we talked to the boys, individually and collectively, the more they realized why we were so concerned. In fact, the more we talked, details about this young lady like her name, her age and where she goes to school suddenly emerged. This allowed us to contact her school, which resulted in her own parents being informed about what was going on. We were able to get the name of another student who didn't attend our school who had put this video in their possession. We contacted the Administration at his school to inform them of what was going on. At the end of it all, it was plain to my partner and I that these boys didn't realize that what they were looking at was "porn". When you talk to them about what it is, they described the garbage that anyone can access for free on any number of sites, hyper-sexualized women and men doing unspeakable things to their bodies. It never occurred to them that this video was pornographic in nature. We broke it down for them in no uncertain terms. Then the tears came. They knew we would be informing police and that the next calls would be to their parents. For my partner and I, this learning experience and their sheer and utter embarrassment had been torture enough so we opted not to pursue any addition consequences. Feel free to disagree. Our boys hadn't distributed. They erred in not telling anyone what they had seen, especially since they all knew the girl. The prospect of the nature of conversation over dinner at home that night had a lot of these boys reeling. For us, it was a mission accomplished and we knew that there was zero chance of a repeat occurrence.

For now, this has become an active investigation with our local police. Once it's over, our liaison office will be coming in to speak to our students again about sexting and the use of social media. In the days that followed, I can't tell you the number of times I asked myself if this was what I truly signed up for. It is, like it or not. I have concluded that no matter the nature of the issue or what comes to pass as a result, the difference is how the matter is dealt with. I believe that no matter how wrong a student is or how misguided the decision-making is, I owe to kids to get them through it, with their dignity intact as much as possible. Let's face it, the more extreme the issue, the more sensitive the Administrator needs to be in how language is used and how consequences are applied. I know a lot of Administrators who might have thrown the book at these boys but I made a call and I am confident that the way my partner and I handled this situation in such a way that should we run into these boys again in the hall, we know that they are not only making better choices, but they can look us in the face and not feel like pariahs in their school.

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