A 12-year-old girl — we’ll call her Kathy — hosted a sleep-over last summer, inviting three of her friends.
Using her newly acquired cell phone, she and her friends texted a 13-year-old boy they knew. He responded by sending back a lurid photo of himself. One of Kathy’s guests became physically ill at the sight, but Kathy didn’t tell her parents about it, and she didn’t delete the photo from her phone.
Weeks passed and classes started at Russell Middle School. Word got around about the photo and ultimately, Kathy’s phone got passed around and other kids saw the picture. Kathy never sent it along in an email to anyone.
A parent heard about it, the school heard about and the police heard about it. School officials, the police and prosecutors are doing their jobs.
The boy is facing a charge in juvenile court.
So is Kathy. (the Gazette doesn't identify juveniles in criminal cases) If she agrees to serve 30 hours of community service and write a few letters of apology, she will not be charged with a class 3 felony Jan. 5, when she has an appearance date in juvenile court.
If the case proceeds, she could be found guilty in a “sexploitation” case and she would be deemed, for a few years, a sex offender.
No doubt, Kathy should have told her parents about the photo immediately. Then they could have had the choice of talking to the boy’s parents or just reporting it to the police.
If it had gone down that way, Kathy would merely be a victim, not a defendant. Her parents have taken her phone away, but they’re not sure what to do about the criminal case.
The parents acknowledged that, sure, she should have made better decisions, but she’s 12.