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The Long Finger of the Law
June 22, 2011 4:37 AM   Subscribe


 
A hand inside the clothing of a 15 year old is now "penetration of a minor"? That's just insane. I wonder how the police got involved in the first place.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:42 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is "School Official" a job that selects for people like this, the way law enforcement seems to attract more than its share of a... certain type of people? Or do they start out as normal, functional human beings and working in a school system just does something to them?
posted by Naberius at 4:52 AM on June 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


And to think, once upon a time these laws were used to prosecute actual child molesters and child pornographers. How silly of us.
posted by Avelwood at 4:52 AM on June 22, 2011 [39 favorites]


That's just insane.

Remember, it's strict enforcement of laws like this that keeps the US teen pregancy rate among the lowest in the Western world. No, wait...
posted by Harald74 at 4:53 AM on June 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Aaaand, one more hardcore child molesting bastard 17 year old male will get sent to the federal pen for the best 20 years of his life.

Good to see the system working as intended.

.
posted by pla at 5:02 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


What gets me about this is the way the school officials are so overbearing:

"Here's you're Yearbook, Jimmy! That'll be $40!"

"Oh, Jimmy, it turns the Yearbook you paid for and that we gave you contains kiddie porn. No, we're not apologizing. But if you don't return it right away, we'll get the DA to charge you with possession and ruin your life for not reacting fast enough to our mistake!"
posted by orthogonality at 5:03 AM on June 22, 2011 [17 favorites]


A hand inside the clothing of a 15 year old is now "penetration of a minor"?

It's possible that whoever was describing the photo was using the euphemism of "hand inside the clothing" rather than a more graphic description. The photo itself could be clearly showing actual penetration.

Officials warned that those who did not return their yearbooks could face charges of possession of child pornography.

Heh well by that logic the school itself should be investigated for publishing and selling child pornography.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:04 AM on June 22, 2011 [37 favorites]


Or do they start out as normal, functional human beings and working in a school system just does something to them?

They probably still are normal, funcational human beings. But they have no choice in the matter because of "zero tolerance" policies. What else does "zero tolerance" mean other than zero tolerance?
posted by DU at 5:04 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


A hand inside the clothing of a 15 year old is now "penetration of a minor"?

Well...

Sgt. Jeremiah MacKay of the Big Bear sheriff’s station said Tuesday that although his investigation was not complete, it showed that sexual penetration of a minor had occurred.

That's some real good CSI work from the Big Bear PD. I wonder if they did the whole "zoom in...enhance...now zoom in...enhance" thing.
posted by PlusDistance at 5:06 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


The photo itself could be clearly showing actual penetration.

That's quite a prom...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:06 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually it was the Winter Formal. Makes you wonder what goes on at the Winter Informal.
posted by MrFTBN at 5:08 AM on June 22, 2011 [24 favorites]


It used to be that in order to punish teenagers for having sex drives we had to douse someone in blood and set the school on fire or don hockey masks and chase them with machetes around the abandoned campground.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:11 AM on June 22, 2011 [48 favorites]


That's quite a prom...

The theme of the prom was "The Aristocrats."
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:14 AM on June 22, 2011 [35 favorites]


I hope no one enlightens the school officials to the existence of exotic technology like scanners and photocopiers.
posted by COBRA! at 5:16 AM on June 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Assuming that there's no lurking reason for this to be, you know, serious - the student involved hasn't complained, there's no "she's telling people it was unwanted but won't talk to the authorities" rumor, etc - then this type of thing does a huge amount of harm to women. Because this is precisely the kind of case that convinces people that rape charges are a joke, and that statutory rape is never also regular-sexual-assault rape. Plus, of course, since this was a widely distributed picture, everyone in school knows all about the case - which will be pretty unpleasant for both kids in different ways.

I don't understand how we can both have so much clearcut sexual harassment and assault in this country and regularly punish people who obviously, obviously did nothing wrong.
posted by Frowner at 5:16 AM on June 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


What else does "zero tolerance" mean other than zero tolerance?

Zero common sense
posted by TedW at 5:18 AM on June 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Someone on some other board floated the possibility that one of the penetrator/penetrated kids' parents might have threatened the school with child pornography distribution charges unless they got all the kids to return their yearbooks. The parents wouldn't want other kids to possess R-rated photos of their little snowflake(s) getting to third base.

I can't imagine that a photo accidentally containing implied nastiness could actually be considered pornography, but what do I know.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:22 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


They probably still are normal, funcational human beings. But they have no choice in the matter because of "zero tolerance" policies.

This.
Policies, which, it should be pointed out, are largely foisted upon school official by paranoid parents and the politicians they elect.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:23 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Because this is precisely the kind of case that convinces people that [...] statutory rape is never also regular-sexual-assault rape.

I don't understand how we can [...] regularly punish people who obviously, obviously did nothing wrong.


Which way were you arguing, again?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:25 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where was the faculty advisor who allowed this photo into the yearbook?

I am really not against the concept of statuatory rape, nor against the idea that sexual photos of underage teens are some kind of child porn, but there's a problem of reasonableness. There should always be a Romeo-and-Juliet law. It should not be illegal to photograph yourself.
posted by jeather at 5:30 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had the same thought, burnmp3s, when I read the headline.

Now that I am fully awake, I went back and read the news report a bit closer: Crimes involving the sexual penetration of a minor fall under child abuse statutes, MacKay said, and school and law enforcement officials are required to report and investigate such incidents.

So somebody, possibly a parent, pointed out the picture to the principal, who then had to report the possibility of a "sex crime."

I wonder if the "evidence" that the police have that penetration took place was an interview with the students in the picture. I really don't see how a picture of two people, fully clothed, in public can possibly prove that penetration occurred. And by the way, what is the penalty for a finger? Is it the same as a penis?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:31 AM on June 22, 2011


Someone on some other board floated the possibility that one of the penetrator/penetrated kids' parents might have threatened the school with child pornography distribution charges unless they got all the kids to return their yearbooks.

It's still distribution even if the recipients return it.

If I was one of the students being threatened with a charge of "possession," I'd tell them I was keeping the yearbook as evidence of the school's crime, then I'd add, "I hope you know, this is going on your permanent record."

Zero tolerance works both ways. If the school wants to play that game, the students have the upper hand in this situation.
posted by amyms at 5:36 AM on June 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


By law they are obligated to respond. I also wonder how much of the school's reaction is to send a zero tolerance message to the student body to prevent future incidents and maintain the school's image to parents.
posted by zarq at 5:42 AM on June 22, 2011


SLoG, some jurisdictions distinguish the difference as molestation vs. rape. I don't know about that specific county's laws though. And with her being a minor and the charge falling under child abuse statutes, I suspect the charges will be equally harsh.
posted by zarq at 5:45 AM on June 22, 2011




Because this is precisely the kind of case that convinces people that [...] statutory rape is never also regular-sexual-assault rape.


The "ha ha that one case was so dumb, I bet all the others are just as dumb!" way. The "oh well, he was 17 and she was 15 so that means that there wasn't actually rape, just kids enjoying themselves - after all there was that one dumb case where they prosecuted the two kids on a date" way. Rape prosecutions to satisfy other people's morality rather than in response to, you know, the actual concerns of a victim - those are a bad idea. Clear?
posted by Frowner at 5:46 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm clear on that. Point is, you're making that exact assumption.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:50 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's still distribution even if the recipients return it.

All of a sudden, I'm reminded of a certain scene from Capturing the Friedmans.

According to my purely recreational understanding of Federal law, the students don't have the upper hand here. 18 U.S.C. §1466A requires that both the distribution and possession of the material be "knowing." The school did not knowingly distribute the offending material within the yearbooks. However, now that everyone knows that the yearbook contains an obscene depiction of minors engaged in a sexual act, the students now knowingly possess the offending material.

Of course, no legal authority says the students have to return the books to the school. I mean, hell, wouldn't that be knowing distribution in and of itself? Throw the book in the trash (or burn the book) (or throw out the offending page) if you want to obey the letter of the law.

The students should give the yearbooks to the school, but tell the cops beforehand, so that they can arrange a sting operation. Har de har har.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:50 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, forgetting the legal issue, there's a pretty good chance that the guy involved is getting high fives all round while the girl involved is devastated and now a social pariah. Unless sexual politics among teenagers have changed significantly in the eight or so years since I was at school - and who knows, maybe they have, Lady Gaga, etc. - everything is fucked.
posted by doublehappy at 5:52 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


That was not at all the sexy sexy issue I expected to arise in a place named Big Bear.
posted by Shepherd at 5:53 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well I feel bad for whomever is pictured on the other side. Sorry, your picture has to go as well. Plus you lose whatever signatures are on that page. My ex-boyfriend at the time wrote a long farewell in which he confessed that I was his first-- I would hate to lose that.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:54 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I understand (though I tend to think it's probably a bit silly) the "child porn" allegation, but I didn't understand the "depiction of alleged sex crime" allegation (since the article didn't give any indication that the two kids weren't both OK with what was going on between them). So I just went to Wikipedia and looked up age of consent in California, and saw the following claim:
The age of consent is 18 (...) It is worth emphasizing that unlike most other states, the close-in-age rule in California (3 years) do not provide an exception nor provide any defense; it merely lowers the crime to a misdemeanor. Under this law, two minors of the same age could both be prosecuted.
That's crazy.
posted by Flunkie at 5:55 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


“As much as we know teenagers are and will be teenagers, by law we cannot ignore it,” MacKay said.

Wait, what? Okay, so this guy is a just a sheriff and might not have discretion but doesn't the DA have absolute discretion when it comes to what cases to prosecute and which to decline to prosecute? Otherwise, they'd waste man-years prosecuting every crappy unwinnable case with no evidence and no witnesses. So there absolutely has to be a way for the DA to decide, so what the hell is this guy on about?
posted by Rhomboid at 5:56 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Coming from a former HS yearbook editor (yea yea big nerd I know), there is NO WAY that no one saw that before it went out. When putting multi picture pages together you are looking at those pics alot.
posted by ShawnString at 5:56 AM on June 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


It amuses me that so many commenters are just so absolutely certain that this is a case of governmental overreaction. You know what? If that was my daughter I would sure as hell be putting as much pressure as I could bring to bare on the school to get those pictures out of circulation.

(I would also arrange for some self-esteem and common sense lessons for my daughter, while tarring, feathering and defenestrating that boy.)
posted by oddman at 5:58 AM on June 22, 2011


Oh yeah, as ShawnString points out, the picture was quite possible inserted on purpose. Those editors (and the photographer) would be due for a reckoning, too.
posted by oddman at 5:59 AM on June 22, 2011


"...I would sure as hell be putting as much pressure as I could bring to bare..."

Uh-huh.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:59 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ah, but if you speak up as a parent, everyone calls you a "Bad Parent" and you get red-flagged.

(Same thing goes for drugs and alcohol- everyone else will think "that's the parent who's soft on drugs! they're probably dealing to the whole freshman class!".)
posted by dunkadunc at 6:00 AM on June 22, 2011


High school yearbook recalled for racy photo? 2400dpi scan online with a million views in 3...2...1...

Seriously, where before maybe a few hundred people would have seen it, now the whole planet will be able to use it as wallpaper. The days of hushing things up are way way over unless you've got a couple billion dollars and pullman car full of judges in your pocket.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq : Yeah, I'm clear on that. Point is, you're making that exact assumption.

Sticherbeast : The students should give the yearbooks to the school, but tell the cops beforehand, so that they can arrange a sting operation.

No, the students should just all keep the damned books and tell the school to go pound sand; Let the DA make a fool of himself in (inter)nation headlines for trying to imprison an entire graduating class on the tenuous "crime" of trying to pass off a hand-in-clothing as "child porn".

"If we accept what they give us, we deserve what we get". Simple as that.


Flunkie :That's crazy.

I wanted to respond something like "no, just the Religious Right doing their thing", but... California? Okay, perhaps just plain crazy... Do we have a Religious Left? ;)
posted by pla at 6:01 AM on June 22, 2011


One million dollars says these are the same people who want to charge 11 year olds as adults.

To sum it up, when you are 15-17 you can:

1) Join the armed forces
2) Pilot a two ton vehicle responsible for tens of thousands of accidental deaths every year
3) Be charged as an adult for pretty much anything
4) But you can't possibly decide to have consensual sex

Why grown adults continue to pretend that their teenagers aren't experimenting with sex is something I can't understand. And why they would want to jail them for it leaves me speechless.
posted by notion at 6:01 AM on June 22, 2011 [36 favorites]


while tarring, feathering and defenestrating that boy.

I notice that you aren't saying that you would want him to spend 5-20 years in prison and be branded a sex offender for life.
posted by gregvr at 6:02 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


(I would also arrange for some self-esteem and common sense lessons for my daughter, while tarring, feathering and defenestrating that boy.)

Just FYI, this is creepy and weird.
posted by odinsdream at 6:14 AM on June 22, 2011 [49 favorites]


Big Bear, there's a Ms. Streisand calling for you...
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:16 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are a bunch of similar photos that I see occasionally on tumblr blogs, WTF-style lists, and so on, taken at discos or school dances or wherever. I'm not going to link to one directly (because fucked if I know what the legality is, though you see them reposted everywhere, including in this recent FPP), but you can see an example in the image results of this google search (right after "satan's cheerleaders," appropriately). I guess people do a lot of groping on the dancefloor, though I was never so lucky.

But although this kind of imagery is omnipresent, it is usually a lot more ambiguous than in a yearbook where the people's ages and names are known. And if it's illegal to publish that photo, then the yearbook might be in trouble.
posted by Forktine at 6:24 AM on June 22, 2011


When did the L.A. times start requiring a facebook account to comment?
posted by cashman at 6:24 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I would also arrange for some self-esteem and common sense lessons for my daughter, while tarring, feathering and defenestrating that boy.)

Even if it were consensual? I'm not a father, but I agree with odinsdream. The wanting to tar and feather the boy is creepy and weird (and wrong), and sends the wrong message to your daughter. It tells her that her sexual side is dirty and bad and should be kept hidden away. Not a good message.
posted by King Bee at 6:35 AM on June 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


just the Religious Right doing their thing", but... California?

Remember Orange County, land of John Wayne and Ronald Reagan.
posted by TedW at 6:40 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


When did the L.A. times start requiring a facebook account to comment?

They started testing in March, and apparently like the results.
posted by mediareport at 6:46 AM on June 22, 2011


Our priorities are so epically fucked up in this country at all levels. It's like collectively, we as a society decided that we should emphasize the stupidest, easiest low hanging fruit as opposed to dealing with any sort of actual problems that can't be solved with a 2 minute sound bite.

Fuck, I need to go for a walk before I get so depressed that I go back to bed.
posted by SNWidget at 6:48 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where was the faculty advisor who allowed this photo into the yearbook?

Obviously we haven't seen the picture (unless we have - any Big Bear class of 2011 in the house?) but it is very likely that no one noticed the background of the picture because of what was going on in the foreground. In my (or my brother's? I can't remember - I'll see if I can dig it up) high school yearbook there is a picture of this radiant girl smiling just the most beautiful, joyful smile. She was clearly caught mid-laugh and it is a perfect 'high school yearbook' picture. Except, as it turns out, the reason she is laughing like that is the kid on the other side of the picture, half-out of frame and half out of focus, who is kissing his middle finger at the camera.

I know the guy who took the picture, the girl, the yearbook editor, and (vaguely) the finger-kisser and they were all mortified. Well, except the finger-kisser who was forced to feign mortification when he was in reality extremely proud. But who can blame him? He was going to get in some sort of ludicrous trouble because he dirtied up everyone's yearbook when he just meant to dirty up one picture. Much like these kids who were just fooling around at the semi-formal and then, a flash-picture in a dark room combined with sloppy (or just unlucky) photo editing and, wham, they are sex-offenders who ruined everyone's yearbook.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:48 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]




When did the L.A. times start requiring a facebook account to comment?

They started testing in March, and apparently like the results.


I don't have a Facebook page and I don't plan on ever having a Facebook page, so fuck 'em.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:53 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


sends the wrong message to your daughter

Though my sympathies are still with the young 'uns, I no longer sit in judgment on purdah-minded parents - having suffered a small taste of the madness myself.

My Daddy's-girl cat Jones, though spayed, still seems to have a milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard. Most notably, a scruffy orange tom from next door. Despite her indifference to his attention - and despite the fact that there's no reproductive trouble she could get into - I found myself grumbling every time I let her out in the morning and saw him pining from a distance. I would tell her, "You stay away from that trashcan Romeo."

He's actually a perfectly nice cat, and I've since made friends with him. As a peace gesture, I chose his name for my e-mail account.
posted by Trurl at 6:53 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Remember, it's strict enforcement of laws like this that keeps the US teen pregancy rate among the lowest in the Western world. No, wait...

Money chart on page 4 of that report. I know I shouldn't be surprised, but Holy Crap!
posted by dry white toast at 6:54 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where was the faculty adviser who allowed this photo into the yearbook?

Funny you should ask that question. When I was teaching in a high school, I happened to be in the room when the year book faculty adviser was going over the prom page and doing the layout of the junior class portrait at that prom (I was the faculty adviser for the prom - now with 75% less open drunken debauchery!) and to my surprise, all the boys in the photo were posed displaying the "shocker". The yearbook adviser and the student working on the page had completely missed that they were putting an obscene gesture into the book. I acted as wet blanket and suggested that some judicious use of PhotoShop could avert this crisis and my other role of wet blanket could continue.

My point being, faculty advisers aren't perfect editors.
posted by plinth at 6:54 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have two daughters, both now in college. They've been taught right and wrong, given access to proper reproductive healthcare and information about STDs. They know their parents will be there for them should something happen to them. If this photo was of one of them, the only question would be whether or not this was consensual. If it was, that would be the end of that.
posted by tommasz at 6:54 AM on June 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


1. If it was consensual, then it's just embarrassing, and statutory laws that don't take the ages of both people into account are stupid. But I can also see how the school feels it has no choice about recalling the yearbooks.

2. If it wasn't consensual, then that girl has had a horrible experience accidentally published in the yearbook, and yeah, the yearbooks should be returned and the boy punished.

I really, really hope it's the first one.

And I was on a yearbook staff too, but even looking at all those pics multiple times, we missed stuff in pictures. Heck, I've worked on book publishing layout and we missed stuff in pictures sometimes. It happens.
posted by emjaybee at 6:57 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was the yearbook editor in my graduating class, and they went over photos and text with a magnifying glass. Maybe it was just my school.
posted by jeather at 7:01 AM on June 22, 2011


But they have no choice in the matter because of "zero tolerance" policies.

You always have a choice.
posted by mhoye at 7:02 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe it was just my school.

Your faculty adviser was probably just a few years removed from getting burned in this fashion.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:03 AM on June 22, 2011


* "It tells her that her sexual side is dirty and bad and should be kept hidden away."

How about telling her that doing it in public is a bad idea?
posted by Eyebeams at 7:04 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


1) Join the armed forces

Unless you're talking about child soldiers, there are certain exceptions. In the United States, you need parental permission, and the individual will not be deployed outside the United States until 18.
posted by FJT at 7:05 AM on June 22, 2011


Now I want to see the picture to find out what the fuss is all about.

No, wait.

Now I want to see two adults that are definitely undeniably over the age of 18 recreating the photo so I can see what the fuss is about.
posted by ymgve at 7:07 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe this is the offending photo. NSFW if you work in a school.
posted by swift at 7:09 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey you know what? I wouldnt want my kids' yearbooks to show a guy groping a girl, either. Granted, the "child pornography" thing may sound a bit severe, but consider also recent events involving non-consensual distribution of sexually explicit material. Suicides, beatings, comas, etc.

So it's very satisfying, on the surface, to jeer at the school administrators and mock them as little Hitlers over-reacting to normal teenage hijinks—but I ask you, what would you do? If there is some legal precedent for images like this qualifying as child pornography, and you are the school administrator, is it so unreasonable to present this extremely unpleasant potential real-world consequence to a a few hundred randy teens? I think it is eminently reasonable to do so. Teenagers aren't adults—they are children. They don't have great judgment, they don't have the perspective to see the potential harm in a thing like this, and they are often a little callous to the suffering of others, not least because the identification of an easy target of derision often provides a momentary reprieve from the fear of mockery and bullying. With all that in mind, it would be extraordinarily naive to expect these kids to return the books or destroy the photo because it's "the right thing to do," and extraordinarily stupid to think that there won't be serious consequences for the students involved if the photo is allowed to remain in distribution.

I know it is popular and gratifying to bash teachers and school administrators for every over-blown, mis-reported, mis-represented apparent over-reach, but the level of vitriol directed toward this school and its staff and administration is unwarranted and unfair.
posted by Mister_A at 7:10 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I believe this is the offending photo. NSFW if you work in a school.

Really? That's what all the fuss is about? There, but for the grace of god, go I.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:28 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't get past the fact it's called Big Bear High School. I'm sure there are other things of note in this story but I am honestly stalled way back here at Big Bear. It sounds like the setting for a gentle preschoolers' edutainment show.
posted by emmtee at 7:30 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


swift : I believe this is the offending photo. NSFW if you work in a school.

If that counts as the correct picture, TFA has massively misrepresented it.

Everything from the "skirt" (all-but-absent), to the "penetration" (which apparently can happen magically through underwear?), nothing like described.
posted by pla at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2011


Mister_A: Telling teenagers to conform to their society's fucked up views on sexuality isn't going to solve anything. Threatening to throw them in jail for it will surely only make the situation worse.

Anyone who claims to be an adult for doing so should be mercilessly lampooned for their spineless behavior. Remember, these administrators are the ones threatening jailtime because their editorial staff failed to catch a yearbook photo. They're fucking idiots, and immoral scapegoaters to boot, and I won't be told otherwise.
posted by notion at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


San Bernadino...YAY
posted by adamvasco at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2011


I believe this is the offending photo. NSFW if you work in a school.
And probably a close crop of the whole photo, to boot.
I bet this detail was way in the background of a larger picture. And wasn't noticed until long after it was published and distributed.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:31 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


doublehappy: "You know, forgetting the legal issue, there's a pretty good chance that the guy involved is getting high fives all round while the girl involved is devastated and now a social pariah. Unless sexual politics among teenagers have changed significantly in the eight or so years since I was at school - and who knows, maybe they have, Lady Gaga, etc. - everything is fucked."

I was in High School 8 years ago, and find the scenario described above to be preposterous, unless there was some sort of factor that made that particular instance amusing, remarkable, or shocking.

...and for what it's worth, the opposite scenario could just as easily play out, with the girl being high-fived, and the boy shamed or mocked due to those same exact amusing/remarkable/shocking circumstances.

As far as I can tell, our society is "very okay" with women (even teenagers) displaying their sexuality in a conspicuous fashion, while men are more or less expected to be sexless doofuses in public*. How is it that men are almost never the victims in these narratives, despite there being truckloads of evidence to the contrary?

Hell. We can even add the "physical" aspect here too. The last girl that I "dated" in High School was literally twice my size, ended up stalking me, and came from a family that owned lots of guns. Although I'm glad to say that I have no real scars from the experience, it's pretty obvious in hindsight that I was the victim, and that my participation in our "relationship" was completely nonconsentual.

But then again, we were both just kids, and equally clueless about relationship etiquette and politics. She was being assertive beyond the point of what was appropriate, and I didn't know how to recognize an abusive situation, or how to GTFO once things started to become outright creepy.

Is this photo OK? Probably not. It's also probably not child porn, and I find it highly unlikely that any sort of action would have been taken if the 'victim' was male.


*And, yes. I recognize that the origins of this cultural meme are highly misogynistic.
However, the end result is that we've become OK with women as sex symbols, but are highly apprehensive about men flaunting their sexuality.

posted by schmod at 7:34 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Big Bear - Doin Thangs
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:35 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think people are misunderstanding the "penetration" aspect of things. The article said: "Sgt. Jeremiah MacKay of the Big Bear sheriff’s station said Tuesday that although his investigation was not complete, it showed that sexual penetration of a minor had occurred."

The "it" that showed that "sexual penetration of a minor had occurred" seems to be the investigation, not the picture.
posted by andoatnp at 7:38 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I don't like the whole "All Men Are Perverts/Sex Offender" meme.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:39 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Puritans gonna--well, um, purify.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:54 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cabin fever in Big Bear. What's the name of that dance, anyway?
posted by mrhappy at 7:59 AM on June 22, 2011


...and for what it's worth, the opposite scenario could just as easily play out, with the girl being high-fived, and the boy shamed or mocked due to those same exact amusing/remarkable/shocking circumstances.

Hahahahahaha ahhhh no it wouldn't.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:00 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I haven't read all the comments in the thread yet, however, I'd like to offer some perspective for the school administrator.

I'm currently in school right now pursuing my Administrator's credential in California. (That's right, I want to be one of these "school officials" we so love to smugly malign.) One of the first classes I took was Law in Education. The purpose of the class was not to make us legal experts, but to be able to recognize legal hazards when we saw them, and from there, call legal.

I imagine the decision-making around this went something like:
ASST. PRINCIPAL: Uh, have you seen this?
PRINCIPAL: Oh God. And this went out to all the students? Call legal.
LEGAL: At best, it's obscenity. At worst, you're looking at penetration of a minor. Child Porn. You're legally mandated to report anything that crosses that line.
PRINCIPAL: Ok, call the sheriffs; start an effort to collect all the yearbooks.

There are so many issues at work here.
1) Protect the students in the photo as best they can. (Yes, I know it's probably on the internet by now, but that's not something the principal has control over. He CAN control to some degree the distribution of yearbooks.)
2) Follow the letter of the law as a mandated legal reporter of child abuse.
3) Protect an already taxed school system from a lawsuit that could cost millions.
There are more, I'm sure, but the problem is far more complex than "GRAR School Official Ruins Teen's Life."

It's in the hands of the sheriff now. The school has made a particularly effective good-faith effort to correct the mistake and protect the children. (We could argue about the handling of that effort, sure.) The girl and her family, if the groping was consensual and she likes the boy, could just as easily drop the charges. They could smell lawsuit money and press charges against the boy, or the school still. Whatever happens, I don't fault the admins for the actions they've taken.
posted by mdaugherty82 at 8:05 AM on June 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


...and for what it's worth, the opposite scenario could just as easily play out, with the girl being high-fived, and the boy shamed or mocked due to those same exact amusing/remarkable/shocking circumstances.

Hahahahahaha ahhhh no it wouldn't.


When I was in high school 5 years ago, everyone would have gotten high fives over this. It was a weird school though.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:05 AM on June 22, 2011


What else does "zero tolerance" mean other than zero tolerance?

"Zero tolerance" is a huge pet peeve of mine.

It's presented as a fair way to address any problem that comes along. You know, it doesn't matter who you are, if you do this then this will happen.

The problem is that, in reality, all it is is an easy "out" for administrators. It saves them the trouble of actually thinking about what really happened. Is there an explanation? Don't wanna hear it. Are there extenuating circumstances? Don't care. Is this situation being misinterpreted? Doesn't matter.

It leads to ridiculous results, as we have witnessed time and again. It's lazy, and it's a horrible example to set.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:21 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um... dudes. The fact that the United States has the highest teen birthrate in the developed world is proof that we need to crack down even harder. I remember exposed kneecaps and curvaceous elbows in many of mine Yearbooks.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:24 AM on June 22, 2011


Whatever the outcome of the police investigation, you can bet there's going to be an AWESOME lawsuit over this. Right now the girl's parents are probably practicing crying on cue for when they get before a sympathetic talk-show host, and talk about how this has "absolutely devastated" their lives. The put of court settlement will be enough to send their kids to college, with enough left over to buy an RV and a power boat.
posted by happyroach at 8:34 AM on June 22, 2011


They probably still are normal, funcational human beings. But they have no choice in the matter because of "zero tolerance" policies. What else does "zero tolerance" mean other than zero tolerance?

I just don't understand the gripe about zero tolerance policies. The alternative is that you allow some people to get away with the action. And that means that favored students get a pass, and unfavored students get crushed.

"We have a zero tolerance policy for smoking on school grounds, unless you are on the football team." or "We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual behavior at school functions, unless she's asking for it by wearing a short skirt." Yeah, that's sane.

If enforcing a rule in a zero tolerance manner catches people who shouldn't be punished, then the rule is wrong, not the manner in which it is enforced.

Everything from the "skirt" (all-but-absent), to the "penetration" (which apparently can happen magically through underwear?), nothing like described.

The middle finger is not visible, nor is the state of the underpants behind the hand. You can't prove it isn't happening, and it looks like it is. And you can't prove the girl consented, and that's the point.

When I was in high school 5 years ago, everyone would have gotten high fives over this. It was a weird school though.

Including the girl?
posted by gjc at 8:35 AM on June 22, 2011


gjc, the fact that you can't see what's going on is proof of precisely nothing. I hope the police have something else if they're going to be claiming evidence of penetration because that picture doesn't show anything.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:39 AM on June 22, 2011


Zero tolerance policies were created for the sole purpose of taking responsibility out of the hands of administrators and giving them an out on virtually everything that falls within it. It's happened time and time again where you have some administrator saying "well, I don't agree with your child being expelled, but those are the rules. Sorry." The lawyers love it because if an administrator were to actually make a judgement call on an appropriate punishment there is then a possibility of second guessing.

Quite frankly, I think all "zero tolerance" policies should be outlawed. If you want to be an administrator of anything then have the guts to take responsibility on a judgement call. Don't hide behind a piss poor rule.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:42 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just don't understand the gripe about zero tolerance policies. The alternative is that you allow some people to get away with the action. And that means that favored students get a pass, and unfavored students get crushed.

No, the alternative case is that each individual situation gets addressed individually.

(And do you think that, maybe, some people get charged with actions they didn't commit under zero tolerance? Like for, I dunno, taking aspirin?)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:43 AM on June 22, 2011


The middle finger is not visible, nor is the state of the underpants behind the hand. You can't prove it isn't happening, and it looks like it is. And you can't prove the girl consented, and that's the point.

Isn't it innocent until proven guilty? Or did have we reverted to Napoleonic law?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:44 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


gjc, the fact that you can't see what's going on is proof of precisely nothing. I hope the police have something else if they're going to be claiming evidence of penetration because that picture doesn't show anything.

It certainly shows a grope of an underage girl, which is enough.
posted by gjc at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2011


What else does "zero tolerance" mean other than zero tolerance?

Infinite intolerance.
posted by Grangousier at 8:57 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Heh. After reviewing the law kindly linked by Sticherbeast I think that the school was really close to being prosecutable. I don't know anything about US Federal law but "knowing distribution" in this context doesn't usually require that you know something is obscene; it just requires that you know you're distributing it. The code says that "the term “sexually explicit conduct” has the meaning given the term in section 2256 (2)(A)", which says that it includes "graphic or lascivious simulated ... masturbation". But for a depiction to be graphic requires "that a viewer can observe any part of the genitals or pubic area" and it would be hard to argue that a relatively subtle and incidental depiction like this was lascivious, presuming it actually does show simulated masturbation. So the school is probably safe by the thickness of a pair of panties.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:59 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in high school 5 years ago, everyone would have gotten high fives over this.

Just wash your hands first, please.
posted by hermitosis at 9:07 AM on June 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


No, the alternative case is that each individual situation gets addressed individually.

Which leads to favoritism. At the very least, it leads to confusion and resentment and the appearance of favoritism. If the written rule isn't the line that cannot be crossed, what is?

It isn't like these policies just fall from the sky after someone unwittingly violates them. Every school I know publishes their rules.

This attitude is the basis of most injustice in the world. The idea that the rules, laws and mores only apply when we think they should. I guess we are cool with more people believing that things are only wrong if the get caught, and if they can't talk their way out of it, right? Because that is where this leads.

(And do you think that, maybe, some people get charged with actions they didn't commit under zero tolerance? Like for, I dunno, taking aspirin?)

I think I'm cool with a school that takes exception to a 5 year old self-dosing with anything. Follow the fucking rules. If the rule is wrong, fight it. But you can't logically go around saying "oh, it's a good rule, it just shouldn't be enforced unless my gut says they deserve it."
posted by gjc at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2011


I think I'm cool with a school that takes exception to a 5 year old self-dosing with anything.

And if they are a 18 year old senior in high school popping an aspirin? Zero tolerance is zero tolerance. Expelled!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:19 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


gjc, is groping really enough? I don't know California law, but in a lot of places penetration versus groping dramatically changes the nature of the charges. I'm not a California lawyer, but a quick glance at the California penal code and I found sections covering sexual intercourse, along with oral and anal sex with minors, but nothing that covered either digital penetration or groping.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:21 AM on June 22, 2011


Including the girl?

Yup. That's why I said everyone.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:23 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And by the way, what is the penalty for a finger?

If it's Indiana and you're Mike Tyson, a couple more years in prison.

It certainly shows a grope of an underage girl, which is enough.

The picture linked does not show a grope of an underage girl. It shows a hand on a leg.

I think someone could make a very strong case that the picture is not sexually explicit, or that the appearance of the panties is more explicit than the presence of the hand.

it would be hard to argue that a relatively subtle and incidental depiction like this was lascivious, presuming it actually does show simulated masturbation.

Very hand, since that's not what the picture shows.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on June 22, 2011


This attitude is the basis of most injustice in the world. The idea that the rules, laws and mores only apply when we think they should. I guess we are cool with more people believing that things are only wrong if the get caught, and if they can't talk their way out of it, right? Because that is where this leads.

I am not arguing that people should "get away" with anything. I'm saying that zero-tolerance is an lazy and authoritarian method. Is "innocent until proven guilty" not a basic American tenet? Even judges listen to explanations and extenuating circumstances. I find it frightening that anyone would trade that system away, for whatever reason.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have no problem with "zero tolerance" meaning "we apply this rule to everyone, equally." What I DO have problem with is when it means "we apply this to every possible interpretation of the rule" as in: a plastic butter knife is equal to a hunting knife or two midols taken by a 13 year old girl for cramps is just the same as illegal drugs.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:27 AM on June 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


This attitude is the basis of most injustice in the world.

I'm not going to get into a long argument, but it's really not, and you're seriously off base. You are acting as if all rules and laws are cut and dry with no interpretations allowed. Why do we even have judges?

The probably with "zero tolerance" is that it doesn't mean "zero tolerance" in practice, i.e. follow the letter of the law/rules in all cases. It actually means "we're scared of being liable and we'll expand the boundaries of the rule to include anyone who might ever possibly be guilty of anything and punish them with no consideration of their circumstances to cover our own asses."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It isn't like these policies just fall from the sky after someone unwittingly violates them. Every school I know publishes their rules.

You're arguing against the entire concept of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, which is a core part of any sophisticated justice system. There are plenty of reasons why rule infractions would be handled differently for different people and situations. A student who has serious behavioral problems and brings in a knife to stab someone might need to be expelled and put in a special program for students with behavioral problems, whereas a new student who brings in a ceremonial dagger would need to be handled completely differently. And even in cases where the infraction itself is for the most part the same, different students have different needs and issues that have to be addressed. It's fine to look at something from a high level and say "Anyone who does this will be suspended" but on a practical level, it really helps to look at the particular situation and student to figure out what will have the best impact on student and the school as a whole.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:32 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, people. What are you suggesting? The school admins just send a polite note asking if everyone would please return their naughty yearbook? Have you ever met a teenager?

The school did the right thing here, regardless of the presence or absence of a zero tolerance policy, regardless of whether the girl was actually penetrated in the photo in question. You can't in good conscience allow a photo like that to remain in the yearbook.
posted by Mister_A at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Zero tolerance" is a meaningless phrase if you don't specify what in particular you intend not to tolerate. If the rules as written call for a judge and jury to interpret the details of every case, then refusing to tolerate violations of those rules is a zero tolerance policy. The problem is when the rules, themselves, don't include any room for judgment. Such rules might work for computers, but aren't suited to the messy business of living in physical space.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:42 AM on June 22, 2011


Mister_A: "The school did the right thing here, regardless of the presence or absence of a zero tolerance policy, regardless of whether the girl was actually penetrated in the photo in question. You can't in good conscience allow a photo like that to remain in the yearbook."

Really? Before this, odds are that very few people would have noticed. (See also: The Streisand effect.)

Now, everyone knows, and it's plastered all over the internet. In the world of digital cameras, cameraphones, and scanners, it's foolhardy to expect to be able to censor something (particularly something sexual) that was distributed to several hundred teenagers. If anything, that will only make it spread even faster.

If they caught this before distributing the yearbook, then yeah. It should have been cut. Now, there's nothing effective that they can do to erase this mistake.

Can't stop the signal. Often, it's damaging to even try.
posted by schmod at 9:45 AM on June 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wanted to respond something like "no, just the Religious Right doing their thing", but... California? Okay, perhaps just plain crazy... Do we have a Religious Left? ;)

California, outside of a few specific regions, is actually pretty conservative.
posted by asnider at 9:46 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just want to know -- on what planet is that dress considered semiformal? If there is any chance that I will end the evening knowing the color of your panties then your dress is inappropriate for a school dance and is also probably actually a tank top.
posted by Biblio at 9:54 AM on June 22, 2011


I see we have done our best to contribute to the distribution of the photo. Nice work!

...these administrators are the ones threatening jailtime...
High school administrators can not sentence students to prison. They can advise them, however, that a certain course of action may constitute a prosecutable offense.

...because their editorial staff failed to catch a yearbook photo.
Do you have any idea who edits the school yearbook? I'll give you a hint: Students!

They're fucking idiots, and immoral scapegoaters to boot...
Who are they scape-goating? What course of action do you recommend, o wise one? Are you cool with leaving this picture in the yearbook?

...and I won't be told otherwise.
Of course not! It's fun to characterize people as mentally and morally deficient jack-booted thugs because they tried to have a picture that may have seriously damaged a young woman's reputation, and was in any case inappropriate for publication, removed from the yearbook. Why would you want to consider the actual motives of the school administration, who are living, breathing human beings? It's much more fun to treat them as evil cartoon villains! Do you think they are doing this to fuck people over or something?

On another note, I do understand the concern about the online attention this will garner, BUT I still see it as a net positive that this is removed from the book. Mostly people will see this picture without much context, rather than friends and neighbors seeing Sally's boyfriend grab her crotch.
posted by Mister_A at 10:02 AM on June 22, 2011


Jesus Christ, people. What are you suggesting? The school admins just send a polite note asking if everyone would please return their naughty yearbook? Have you ever met a teenager?

The school did the right thing here, regardless of the presence or absence of a zero tolerance policy, regardless of whether the girl was actually penetrated in the photo in question. You can't in good conscience allow a photo like that to remain in the yearbook.


I agree with you, result-wise.

But the administrators have some responsibility here. Ham-handedness doesn't have to be a hallmark of administrators (although that's hard to prove these days). Calm, discrete phone calls to parents might have been a good place to start. Threatening people with the potentiality of possessing child porn was a boneheaded move.

In that respect, slavish ham-handed devotion to zero-tolerance policies and ignorant, ham-handed public relations abilities go hand in hand.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:06 AM on June 22, 2011


California, outside of a few specific regions, is actually pretty conservative.

And if you've ever been up anywhere near or around Big Bear (I wouldn't advise planning a leisure trip there), you know that "pretty conservative" actually means Michele Bachmann-level batshit conservative in those parts.
posted by blucevalo at 10:07 AM on June 22, 2011


Jesus Christ, people. What are you suggesting? The school admins just send a polite note asking if everyone would please return their naughty yearbook? Have you ever met a teenager?

I'm suggesting no one does anything and lets the yearbook exist as is. I guess the yearbook sponsor/editor should be replaced or trained to avoid these sorts of mistakes.

You can't in good conscience allow a photo like that to remain in the yearbook.

Why not? It's already online. What's the difference?

If they caught this before distributing the yearbook, then yeah. It should have been cut. Now, there's nothing effective that they can do to erase this mistake.

Exactly. They should focus on not making these sorts of mistakes in the future. This one's spilt milk.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:10 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The picture linked does not show a grope of an underage girl. It shows a hand on a leg.

Yikes. Could we possibly be looking at the same image? His fingers are right there, pressing against her crotch at the very least (as others have said, it's hard to tell where the fingertips are). If that's what you consider just "a hand on a leg" then I hope you are never a high school dance chaperone.
posted by hermitosis at 10:11 AM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Boy, I'm sure glad these kids weren't using some kind of digital camera that might allow them to make an infinite number of copies of the photo, and that they don't have access to some kind of "social" Internet network they could use to send the photo to all their friends.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:11 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can't stop the signal. Often, it's damaging to even try.

On the contrary. Given that possession, let al one distribution, of the offending image is punishable by the most severe penalties American society has short of death (lengthy prison sentences followed by a life of sleeping under bridges as a member of the underclass of registered sex offenders), this image won't be going anywhere. The message that is sent is that playtime is over, and This Is Fucking Serious.

Maybe some idiot will try sending it for a laugh and serve as an example of what happens when you fuck with child-pornography laws. Then everybody else will shred their hard drives and be very, very good.
posted by acb at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2011


If that's what you consider just "a hand on a leg" then I hope you are never a high school dance chaperone.

I guess not. I wouldn't have much problem with consenting teenagers fingering each other either.

His fingers are right there, pressing against her crotch at the very least

Ach. The pressing! It cannot stand!

I can't believe some of you are claiming this photo is sexually explicit. Absolutely ridiculous.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2011


What prevented administrators from calling the parents and saying, "We made a whoopsie. We need those yearbooks back for the moment because of a few pressing legal considerations. Of course, we will be providing new yearbooks for the students once we have this all sorted."?

Nothing. Even if they were compelled to act under some fairly interesting interpretations of zero tolerance, a more genteel approach was still an option they could have selected. The last few stragglers would receive yet another phone call to the parents and that would have been the end of it.

Power-lording fools.
posted by adipocere at 10:15 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It stands as more evidence of the unusual conformity of Generation Y that every single person returned the book so the page could be ripped out!

To me this is a clear-cut case of "My yearbook, fuck you". I was nowhere near the most rebellious student in school, and I can quite confidently say I wouldn't have returned it. Oops, I must've "lost" it; sorry, school.
posted by dgaicun at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


To me this is a clear-cut case of "My yearbook, fuck you". I was nowhere near the most rebellious student in school, and I can quite confidently say I wouldn't have returned it. Oops, I must've "lost" it; sorry, school.

If you did that today, could you be sure the police wouldn't have come along, searched your home, and seized your computer to search at their leisure for anything incriminating? In today's more regimented, militarised security regime, the odds of that are decidedly nonzero.
posted by acb at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe some idiot will try sending it for a laugh and serve as an example of what happens when you fuck with child-pornography laws. Then everybody else will shred their hard drives and be very, very good.

The picture is already on the internet. It's linked above. Now what?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:26 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you did that today, could you be sure the police wouldn't have come along, searched your home, and seized your computer to search at their leisure for anything incriminating? In today's more regimented, militarised security regime, the odds of that are decidedly nonzero.

If I were rich, I'd say, "Bring your warrant, and I'll call my lawyer."
posted by mrgrimm at 10:30 AM on June 22, 2011


I wouldn't have much problem with consenting teenagers fingering each other either.

Yeah I don't care about that part at all, either. My concerns would be A) did she give consent to be touched that way, and B) did she consent to being photographed in the act. As a parent, I wouldn't want my teenager at a school-sanctioned event where this kind of thing was not only happening, but photographed and memorialized in the yearbook. It makes it look like no standards for conduct whatsoever are being enforced. That's why the school is taking such a hard line in its response -- I imagine they feel (and rightly so) that they have a lot to prove.
posted by hermitosis at 10:47 AM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


My concerns would be A) did she give consent to be touched that way, and B) did she consent to being photographed in the act.

I agree, and I think both are critical questions. I really don't know much about the law, but if either subject did not agree to be photographed or have their photographs used in the yearbook, then it seems like they have a decent case to ask them returned.

But really, does that apply equally to the dude picking his nose, etc? I guess I don't find the picture "sexually explicit," which is the rub here. (Pun intended.)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:06 AM on June 22, 2011


Mister_A said: The school did the right thing here, regardless of the presence or absence of a zero tolerance policy, regardless of whether the girl was actually penetrated in the photo in question. [emphasis mine]

WTF? It's okay to shame people, to threaten people with criminal charges, to ruin their reputations, etc., regardless of the facts?

What's next? If the yearbook publishes a photo of a student dressed as a zombie at a Halloween party, shall we charge his companions with murder regardless of whether he's actually dead?

Shall we charge the pep club with conspiracy to commit battery if they make banners before the big football game that say "Bite 'em Bears!" regardless of whether anyone on the opposing team was actually bitten?

Have we lost our collective minds?
posted by amyms at 12:07 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really don't know much about the law, but if either subject did not agree to be photographed or have their photographs used in the yearbook

Ignoring the content of the photo for a moment, but most school events requiring admission have some kind of bullshit statement about your attendance representing acceptance that your photograph may be used in school publications.

Clearly the content issue may inform consent, but just the standard photo release may be a non-issue.
posted by odinsdream at 12:08 PM on June 22, 2011


My point, amyms, is that this photo of the crotch-grabbing is inappropriate and potentially damaging to the young woman. It would be even more inappropriate if one could clearly see penetration in it, which is apparently not the case. But it's still not a photo that should be a part of the yearbook. If you think it's alright to have a crotch-grabbing photo like that in the yearbook, we'll have to agree to disagree.
posted by Mister_A at 12:22 PM on June 22, 2011


Mister_A said: If you think it's alright to have a crotch-grabbing photo like that in the yearbook, we'll have to agree to disagree.

Nice try. I don't think it's "alright" to have a crotch-grabbing photo in the yearbook, however I also don't think it's "alright" for the school react in a way that sets in motion a series of events that could ruin at least one person's life, not to mention the collateral ridiculousness of threatening other students with a crime for simply possessing the yearbooks that the school distributed to them.

It's the overreaction that I object to. Your contention that the school is blameless regardless of the facts is the kind of attitude that leads to witch hunts.
posted by amyms at 12:35 PM on June 22, 2011


I never said the school was blameless regardless of the facts. Your persistent misrepresentation of my position suggests that you may not be arguing in good faith. The point is that the crotch-grabbing photo, WHETHER IT DEPICTS PENETRATION OR NOT, is inappropriate, and that it will damage the young woman's reputation; furthermore, it is conceivable, given the inherent fuzziness and the fairly broad latitude in interpreting and applying child sex abuse/child pornography laws, that the act depicted in the photo could be construed as child pornography by agencies that can bring criminal proceedings against the school and/or its students for continued distribution or possession of the material in question. And finally, it is conceivable that the families of certain of the students may have threatened legal action — criminal and/or civil — against the school if swift action was not taken to remove the image in question.

So, is the school blameless? Of course not. They should have had a closer look at the yearbook. But were they at fault for contacting the sheriff's office? I don't think so. There are laws on the books that dictate the circumstances under which it is legally required to report suspected abuse; it is not a stretch to think that this case, especially if pressure was being applied by one or more of the families involved, crossed the threshold, at least in the minds of the administrators, and required reporting.

This is a whole different ball of wax from "OMG the school baddies are going to throw the high school kids in jail," which is a fairly alarmist reading of the events in this case. Maybe this case doesn't meet all the legal criteria; maybe the school, technically, didn't absolutely have to report this incident. I don't know, to be honest; I'm not a lawyer and not at all familiar with the particulars of the relevant California statutes. One thing I didn't see either in the LA Times piece or in the original piece in the Press-Enterprise is the part where the school threatened to have kids sent to jail, or anything like it. "Officials" mentioned that possession of the yearbook could result in child pornography charges; not will or has resulted in such charges.
posted by Mister_A at 12:59 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mister_A, you're accusing me of misrepresenting your position? You interpreted my objection to your assertion that "the school did the right thing here" as being the equivalent of me thinking "it's alright to have a crotch-grabbing photo like that in the yearbook" but you think I'm arguing in bad faith? How's the view from your glass house?

We're obviously not seeing the same forest here, let alone the trees, so I'll disengage from the back-and-forth. Feel free to MeMail me if you think there's more to say.
posted by amyms at 1:43 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't we all just get along and agree that the title of the post is hilarious?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 2:03 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, there IS a process by which aggravating and mitigating circumstances are taken into account -- that's when the student's suspension or expulsion is heard by the school board. In my state, the school board -- the elected officials who represent the community -- have discretion to make one of several decisions that takes into account those aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

For example, we had a young student whose parents are not US natives and do not speak English well bring a prescription medication to school to take herself at lunch. In their home country this is quite normal. In my state, there is a "zero tolerance" law for students possessing meds at school -- they must go to the nurse and be dispensed by the nurse. So the student went through the expulsion process, as state law dictates, and the expulsion came to the board. Where CLEARLY this was a case of a cultural misunderstanding and CLEARLY nobody was trying to hurt anybody. So we imposed a sanction called "Expelled -- on Board Probation" which basically means "student goes back to home school, if student gets in no further trouble in two semesters, expulsion is expunged from the student's record completely." We also requested that the student affairs person speak with the student's parents and ensure they fully understood the policy at work, and we directed our communications staff to prepare a pamphlet on the drug possession policy for OTC and Rx meds and have it translated into the most common languages in our district, to try to prevent a repeat. We also directed them to speak with the religious organizations that work with our largest immigrant groups, in the hopes that various religious leaders who understand US laws and the culture clash could help communicate across the language and culture barrier.

We both followed the letter of the law that mandates expulsion, and (I thought) provided a nuanced response that respected the realities of the situation by allowing the child a(n easy) path to have the expulsion expunged AND took broad steps to prevent a similar cultural misunderstanding from occurring again within our district.

Students do have Constitutional Due Process rights in all public school disciplinary proceedings. Typically the complaint is that we take too LONG to process disciplinary complaints and we're not harsh enough and we spend too much time respecting their rights and considering the fact that they're children and have extenuating circumstances.

There are VERY good reasons that principals and teachers MUST apply the rules uniformly, however; there are HUGE lawsuits when they don't, and they are often quite meritorious lawsuits because treating similarly-situated students differently is discrimination. As for mandatory reporting, school officials and teachers get training in child abuse/neglect/etc., but they are not experts. That is why they are mandatory reporters -- to get the experts involved. A district not far from me recently had a girls' basketball coach arrested for having sex over a period of months and months and months with one of his underage students on the team. Reports say that several students had mentioned it to teachers as a rumor or in passing, and the teachers who heard it claim they figured there was "nothing to it" because the coach was "such a good guy" and "ran a great program." THEY ARE NOT EXPERTS IN CHILD ABUSE. And that is not discretion they have. They hear an allegation, they report it to DCFS, and the expert investigators investigate. It is a crime in my state to fail to report if you are a mandatory reporter, and it's certainly a firing offense.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:07 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


(PS -- it is almost certainly the lawyers who decided on the course of action. School administrators do not want to TOUCH child porn accusations. Catching kids having sex in the bathroom is bad enough and merits an immediate call to the attorneys.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:11 PM on June 22, 2011


If you think it's alright to have a crotch-grabbing photo like that in the yearbook, we'll have to agree to disagree.

I think that if the picture were noticed before printing, it should have been removed, for a variety of reasons.

Once it has been printed and distributed, I don't think that the recipients should be required by law to return it.

I don't quite understand the legal threats against the recipients when the picture itself has not been ruled by anyone to be obscene, sexual explicit, or illegal.

Let's say I bought a newspaper this morning, and hidden in one of the advertisements was a naked child engaged in sexual activity, which was later discovered by authorities. Let's say 500,000 of us in the city had the paper. We would be required by law to do what?

Even in a society (ours) with restricted freedom, it seems like the content itself (the picture) has to be ruled illegal before anyone can start making legal threats against people who have it. Who made that decision that the picture was illegal? Lawyers? Police? ... We are letting lawyers and the police make rulings on cases now?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:14 PM on June 22, 2011


What else does "zero tolerance" mean other than zero tolerance?

Two beers to get drunk? Wind up with all sorts of hands up skirts then.

posted by IvoShandor at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2011


Sounds like a whole bunch of people pissed-off that they didn't score in high school.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:38 PM on June 22, 2011


Secret Life of Gravy: "And by the way, what is the penalty for a finger? Is it the same as a penis?"

Fifty dollars, same as in town.

Oh wait. Wrong joke.
posted by symbioid at 5:47 PM on June 22, 2011


emmtee: "I can't get past the fact it's called Big Bear High School. I'm sure there are other things of note in this story but I am honestly stalled way back here at Big Bear. It sounds like the setting for a gentle preschoolers' edutainment show."

I think the school is afraid that people will start thinking that this big bear is their mascot.
posted by symbioid at 5:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee : Where CLEARLY this was a case of a cultural misunderstanding

No. No cultural misunderstanding.

Clearly a perfect example of why we have this thread in the first place - Absolutely insane rules with zero tolerance for entirely reasonable and legal exceptions to the same, enforced in the most draconian manner possible.

A kid can't take their own prescribed, by a real live licensed doctor, at school? Seriously, just Whiskey... Tango... Foxtrot???

"Yeah, sorry Billy died of asthma, but the nurse had to run out to get her dry cleaning. We explained patiently to him that he'd just have to wait it out, but by then he had petulantly started holding his breath and turning blue. No worries though, we've decided not to put an insubordination charge on his permanent record."
posted by pla at 5:52 PM on June 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And to think, we thought we were being subversive by trying to get a person that didn't "exist" into our yearbook. Norman Dukes will always live on in our heart.
posted by drezdn at 5:58 PM on June 22, 2011


That is a dress?! I have rubber bands that are wider than that.

Seriously, is that all of the dress? Is he pulling back or tucking up the skirt, or did she get rid of the rest of it after she left her parents' house that evening?

I'm not being sex-negative or puritanical or whatever the new bad word is for people who scorn women who wear tiny clothes. Bless her heart, I guess it's her business if she wants to wear a skirt smaller than a single square of toilet paper. But dang, I really can't believe that there is not more to that dress than is shown in the photo.
posted by winna at 5:59 PM on June 22, 2011


Biblio writes "I just want to know -- on what planet is that dress considered semiformal? If there is any chance that I will end the evening knowing the color of your panties then your dress is inappropriate for a school dance and is also probably actually a tank top."

Looks like the skirt is hiked up significantly making it impossible to tell how long it would be normally.
posted by Mitheral at 8:58 PM on June 22, 2011


You can't in good conscience allow a photo like that to remain in the yearbook.

Keep your mitts off my yearbook. I've got a Sharpie, and I'm not afraid to use it.


If there is any chance that I will end the evening knowing the color of your panties ...."

I'm just amazed she was wearing any panties. I knew several female attending my senior prom (back in 19 mumble mumble) who didn't bother--of course, most of them wore full length formals.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:20 PM on June 22, 2011


Since no one can know the truth of the situation at this point, a lot of this speculation is bound to be bullshit.

I wish inflammatory news briefs wouldn't get posted until there was more than a local news story.
posted by klangklangston at 11:51 PM on June 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish inflammatory news briefs wouldn't get posted ...

Well, technically speaking, they're news panties.

But, panty jokes aside, I have to address the later posters who seem to be hung up on the girl's clothing. Surely you must realize that the presence or absence of panties, the length of her skirt, her fashion sense or lack thereof, etc., have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Is it somehow more acceptable for the school to publically draw attention to her picture, shaming her and possibly igniting a life-ruining investigation of her boyfriend because you don't like what she's wearing?

Alright, let he or she among you who was an exemplar of stylish decorum at age 15 cast the first rhinestone.
posted by amyms at 1:55 AM on June 23, 2011


Eyebrows McGee your example only seems to serve as an example of why zero tolerance policies are bad. The out come in your example while not as awful as it could have been was still a terrible outcome. It could easily have been resolved with no repercussions to the student who was unaware anything was being done wrong and was not harming other students in any way .

Once the problem was discovered all that needed to be done was contact the parents, and explain the policy that is in place and help them to come in line with the policy. Unless they have a major problem with that policy this whole thing could have been resolved with a phone call or two and that student would still be in school going to the nurse at lunch for their meds.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:03 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's another point to consider: How many of you are reacting to this quote: "[School] Officials warned that those [students] who did not return their [high school] yearbooks could face charges of possession of child pornography."

It sure makes it seem like school officials are donning their comical Nazi uniforms and kicking down doors to rip treasured keepsakes from betwixt the mitts of adorably naive moppets who were only just now drawing pretty flowers next to portraits of the objects of their affections, don't it? However, the [School] part was added by the OP, and is not indicated or hinted at in either the LA Times Blog piece or the original local story. Thus, we don't know if these officials were school officials or not.

We also don't know how this information was disseminated. Isn't it possible that this was a reply to a reporter's question? Of course it's possible.

REPORTER: What will happen if the kids don't return their yearbooks. Are there criminal penalties?
OFFICIAL: Well, if this material is classified as child pornography, anyway who possesses or distributes it could potentially face criminal charges.

Now, I don't know that that's what happened, but neither do any of us know that the principal called an assembly and threatened to have people jailed for kiddie porn or whatever ridiculous scenario is playing out in some of your knee-jerk anti-authority fantasies. In other words, what KlangKlangston said.
posted by Mister_A at 11:07 AM on June 23, 2011


Teaching a young person to be in control of her sexual behavior and aware of what can happen when you do things in public that can be immortalized on the internet is somehow weird to you people? Wow. You have one very strange worldview.

As for being protective of a child (regardless of gender) and wanting to make sure that someone who put them in a bad situation is censured accordingly, if you think that is remotely odd, creepy or wrong, I just don't understand you.

"I notice that you aren't saying that you would want him to spend 5-20 years in prison and be branded a sex offender for life."

I'm a father not a barbarian. The use of sex-crime laws for childish behavior is really awful.
posted by oddman at 11:09 AM on June 23, 2011


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