Two Barrington middle school students face possession of child pornography charges alleging they texted sexually explicit photos and video of a fellow student to a "large group of classmates," according to police.
The two boys, who are not being identified because they are juveniles, are students at Barrington Middle School-Station Campus, according to authorities. They have been released to their families and their cases will be handled by the Cook County Juvenile Court.
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According to a statement released by Barrington Unit District 220 Superintendent Tom Leonard, the allegations could lead to felony dispositions against the boys.
"These students and their parents find themselves in a severe situation," Leonard writes. "Their futures may be forever stamped by the careless use of an app, the tease of a text message, the unthinking post of an indecent photo."
Jeff Arnett, the chief communications officer for the school district, said the boys obtained the images from a student who self-shot the photos and video.
"These were personal photos that originated with a single student who thought they were sharing it with a student who could be trusted," Arnett said.
According to Barrington Police Chief Dave Dorn, one of the offenders, whom he referred to as Offender 1, sent the photos and videos to several classmates via text message on March 30, the day before students returned from spring break.
Dorn said Offender 2 also possessed pornographic photos and videos, and disseminated the photos to classmates on April 2.
Police were notified by the school district soon after.
Authorities declined to disclose the exact ages and hometowns of the juveniles involved, but students at Station Campus range from 11 to 14 years old.
Arnett previously said police and school officials were able to contact every student involved and put a stop to distribution before it spread further.
But on April 28, Offender 1 showed one of the pornographic images to a classmate, Dorn said. The classmate "did the right thing and came forward," he said.
Dorn said it is clear that Offender 1 was not deterred by the possibility of facing charges. Because there were multiple photographs and videos, the boys could face multiple charges in juvenile court, he said.
Arnett said the boys were disciplined by the school district in early April while the police were still investigating. Further disciplinary action is possible as additional details come to light, he said.
Richard Hutt, chief of the Cook County public defender's juvenile division, said a court would have a variety of punishment options if the boys are found delinquent. The options range from court supervision or probation on the low end, to spending up to 30 days in a juvenile detention center or even longer in an Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice facility.
Police and school officials urged parents to use this event to discuss appropriate technology use with their children. Among their tips:
• Talk with your student and set guidelines on appropriate use of phones. This means no inappropriate texts or embarrassing photos or videos.
• Tell your teen that sexually explicit material of any kind is not allowed. Have your child "friend" you or allow you into his or her social media circle. This will allow you to monitor for questionable activity.
• While they may not think it is a good idea, you must look through your child's phone and monitor his or her usage. If the device contains a passcode they should provide you with access.
• Establish real consequences when parental rules or boundaries are broken, and enforce them. A parent can cancel or suspend access to cellphone service if a child does not follow the established rules.
• Teens should always think about the consequences of taking, sending or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, even if it is of themselves. Students can be removed from sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities and get in trouble with law enforcement.
• Teens should never take images of themselves they would not want everyone -- classmates, teachers, family or employers -- to see.
• If a person forwards a sexual image of someone underage, that person is as responsible for this image as the original sender. A distributor in this instance could face child pornography charges.
According to Leonard's statement, the school district had been addressing the dangers of online misbehavior even before these reports surfaced last month.
Melissa Hemzacek of the Illinois attorney general's High-Tech Crime Bureau will speak to parents at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at Station Middle School, 215 S. Eastern Ave., Barrington. The event is open to parents of students of all ages in Barrington 220.
The following morning, the parent group Learn, Inspire, Network, Know Barrington will host a parent coffee and panel discussion at 9 a.m. in the Guidance Resource Center at Barrington High School, 616 W. Main St., Barrington, for a more in-depth conversation about Internet safety and sexting.