JCPS: Students nude photo postings are cyber-bullying, likely cr - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

JCPS: Students nude photo postings are cyber-bullying, likely criminal

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Adrian Lauf Adrian Lauf
Michael Losavio Michael Losavio

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Jefferson County Public Schools has sent a letter home to parents upon discovering that nude or other inappropriate pictures of students have appeared on Instagram, a photo-sharing online service.

In part, the letter reads: "This behavior violates the Jefferson County Public Schools Code of Acceptable Behavior and Discipline policy, and we will take disciplinary action against students who have participated."

Ben Jackey, a JCPS spokesman, said students in at least eight high schools have been victimized.

"Many of these postings have since been taken down," said Jackey. "But they can go put something else up and it's just up to us to do whatever we can to protect our students."

Adrian Lauf, an assistant professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Louisville, said Instagram has become the social medium of choice for many ‘tweens and teenagers.

"It's designed from the ground up, to not require technical knowledge," Lauf said.

But ease of posting also means they may be able to do so too freely.

"A parent may be able to put a curfew on a child and may be able to monitor the front door when they get home late at night," Lauf said. "But you can't do that really effectively with a smartphone."

"The kid has heard about a privacy setting, but I doubt any of them use it," said Michael Losavio, whose focus at UofL includes how law and technology impact each other.

Losavio warned the Instagram photos in question could go beyond sexual shaming or cyber-bullying.

"If it meets those definitions of child pornography or obscenity," Losavio said, "you're now guilty of those offenses."

A child or teenager would be no less responsible, legally, if he or she had posted their own photographs.

"Courts, generally, have taken into account a poster's age and maturity level," said Losavio. "But the law doesn't say that they have to, necessarily."

Society could be less forgiving.

"These photos may not go away," Losavio said. "The damage to reputation, the way people look at that person in the future - job opportunities, college opportunities."

Parents also need to know that such photos may offer fodder for sexual predators.

"The pedophile community is made up of some very focused and very bad people," said Losavio.

So what's a parent to do?

"Parental controls, technology controls are somewhat cut and dried," Lauf said. "They're either gonna work or they're not gonna work. The question is have you just created a challenge?"

As a teenager, Lauf quickly disabled the controls his parents put on the family computer.

"You want to establish a free form of communication with your children," said Lauf. "You want it to lead to them asking you questions about what's going on even if you maybe don't have the answers. Once a child confirms that he/she knows more about the technology that you, you've lost credibility."

At the current time JCPS is handling the investigation. While they have not asked Louisville Metro Police or other outside law enforcement agencies for help, they are keeping that option open.

Administrators don't have a firm count of the subjects or victims. As quickly as the poster or Instagram takes something down, more could go up.

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