“It’s ridiculous:” West Allis high school students cited for topless selfie

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WEST ALLIS -- A nude selfie resulted in municipal citations for 14-year-old West Allis high school students. The girl involved is accused of sharing a photo of her bare chest with her boyfriend. They were cited for disorderly conduct, police said.

Just days before winter break, a mother of a student at Nathan Hale High School says she received an alarming call from administrators.

"'Your daughter is sending pictures to another boy in the school. He was caught showing the picture to someone. We're going to expel her and she could be facing criminal charges for distribution of child pornography,'" said the mother.

The mother said she was not allowed to view the photo in question, but was told by staff that it was a nude photo of a female's chest. The male student who received it said it was sent by her daughter via the social media app Snapchat.

"I found out that he is going to get charged with receiving child pornography and distribution for showing a friend, which to me is silly as well," said the mother.

The mother said Wednesday, Jan. 10 the two 14-year-olds would have to appear in juvenile court. Police said Thursday they were cited for disorderly conduct.

Nathan Hale High School

Jerome Buting

"The laws on the books allow for prosecutors to have a lot of discretion on these kinds of offenses," said Jerome Buting, criminal defense attorney.

These kinds of incidents are becoming increasingly common as the Wisconsin Legislature has been slow to catch up to the rapid advancements in technology.

Buting said there are few provisions in child pornography laws that account for minors exchanging sexually-explicit content with each other.

"It's an education thing," said Buting. "I think children need to understand that they don't expose themselves like that to someone else."

That's why this mother wanted to speak out. She said she wants her daughter's peers and their parents to know that sexting can have serious consequences.

"It's ridiculous that a kid can get their future jeopardized for something so minor like this," said the mother.

Legislatures have amended the law somewhat in recent years, making it a misdemeanor as opposed to a felony offense if a teen is caught exposing him or herself to another teen in a photo. However, it is still a felony to possess a nude photo of someone under 18, even if the recipient of the picture is also underage.

Nathan Hale High School

Officials with the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District issued this statement:

"West Allis-West Milwaukee School District administrators are responding to an apparent sexting incident that occurred between students attending West Allis Nathan Hale High School. School administrators are working closely with the West Allis Police Department on this matter and will hold all students involved responsible for their actions for any inappropriate, school-related activities.

Because this is a matter involving students, the District does not release details due to confidentiality requirements.

The District has strict policies against these types of incidents which are clearly outlined in the 2017-2018 Rights and Responsibilities Handbook for Students and Parents located on the district website at www.wawm.k12.wi.us . Expectations and consequences are acknowledged by students and parents annually.

Inappropriate use of the District’s technology resources, Web resources or District property and any other violation of District policies, guidelines or rules may result in suspension of technology privileges, report to criminal authorities, legal action, and discipline up to and including suspension and expulsion for students, in accordance with the student handbook.

Nathan Hale High School works to educate students on issues related to the appropriate use of technology and social media. It is important that students understand the potential consequences of misuse.

Expectations and consequences are discussed through a review of the student handbook which is also posted on the school website.

We urge parents to talk to their teens about how smartphones, tablets, and laptops are used. Any sort of photo, video, or message that shows someone doing or saying something embarrassing or offensive can not only have possible school and legal consequences, but be damaging to a reputation, especially if there's nudity, sex, or sexually suggestive content involved."