Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin Township Police Department brings multiple pornography charges against middle school students in the TE School District

Today the Tredyffrin Township Police Department filed multiple pornography charges against three middle school students at TE Middle School and Valley Forge Middle School for allegedly creating and sending sexually explicit images. According to the police report the images included nudity and child pornography. The ages of those charged range from 11 – 15 years old. Suspects viewed and shared the images while in school. The investigation by the Tredyffrin Township Police began in April 2015.

An excerpt from the Tredyffrin Township Police Department press release of November 3, 2015 is as follows:

The Tredyffrin Township Police Department has announced that Juvenile Allegations have been filed against three (3) juveniles, for different incidents related to the creation and distribution of intimate images and harassment. The distribution of intimate images can range from a charge grading of a summary offense to a felony, depending on the age of the participants, the age of the receiver of the image and circumstances involved in the viewing, storage and distribution of the intimate image.

In this case, those intimate images consisted of pictures or videos of students who attend Tredyffrin-Easttown School District middle schools; Valley Forge Middle School and T/E Middle School, as well as images retrieved from the internet. The age of the juveniles charged ranged from age 11 – 15 at the time the incidents occurred. Additional juveniles are likely to be charged in the near future.

The allegations were a result of investigations which were begun in April of 2015 by Tredyffrin Township Police Department and are continuing. During the investigation it was reported by both victims and participants, that intimate images consisting of child erotica, nudity, child pornography and pornography were created, sent, stored, and viewed by a number of students both at their homes and while at school.

In most cases the images and videos were sent voluntarily by the juveniles to other minors. In some cases intimate images were sent to unknown persons who were met in Cyber Chats conducted with various social networking applications. In another case, a student offered to sell an intimate image of a classmate to another student. The charges connected to this were, Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, Section 6321 (a)(1), Transmission of Sexually Explicit Images by a Minor, a summary offense and a Misdemeanor of the 3rd.

In one case, an intimate image of a sex act was taken off of the World Wide Web by a juvenile male, then distributed and portrayed as being that of a juvenile female student to her class mates. The resulting harassment lead to an assault at the T/E Middle School.

The charges related to this incident, from Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Crime Code included the following: Section 5903, Obscene and other Sexual Materials and Performances, a Felony of the 3rd degree; Section 7512, Criminal Use of a Communications Facility, a Felony of the 3rd degree; Section 6318, Unlawful Contact with a Minor, a Felony of the 3rd degree and Section 2709, Harassment, a Misdemeanor of the 3rd degree. Also charged was Section 3126 Indecent Assault, a Misdemeanor of the 2nd degree; Section 2709.1, Stalking, a Misdemeanor of the 1st degree.

During the investigation the majority of the parents whose children were involved were very concerned and cooperated fully with the investigation. One parent who routinely checked their child’s cell phone and computer usage was surprised to learn that his child was using a cloud based storage service to store and retrieve intimate images and avoid detection by his parents.

Many of the intimate images were found to have been created by the juveniles taking selfies, in their own homes with the location services setting on their phones activated. This action would allow for viewers of the images, including child predators to locate the homes of the juveniles via Meta data stored in the picture file.

Following the release of the Tredyffrin Township Police Department special juvenile report today, the TE School District released the following statement:

The T/E School District has been cooperating with a police investigation related to alleged misconduct by middle school students. We take these matters very seriously and follow up with procedures that promote safety for all students. The incident may also carry school-based discipline. As such, the District cannot comment on specific student discipline matters, as we must do all we can to preserve the privacy rights of all students.

The District has cooperated fully with law enforcement agencies throughout this investigation and will continue to do so. We join with the police and the entire community to emphasize responsible use of technology and to affirm the rights of all individuals to live and thrive in an environment free from harassment. This message is central to our mission and our daily work with students.

Mark Cataldi
Director of Assessment and Accountability
District Safety Coordinator

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  1. That law made it a summary offense for a minor to send an explicit photo of himself or herself and a misdemeanor if the image is of someone else. The statute also requires a judge at sentencing to first consider a diversion program, which would be followed by expunging of the charge from the child’s record.

    In response, the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center claimed the law was “ill-suited to addressing adolescent behaviors.”

    “Children need education and guidance from parents for their reckless, immature, and often stupid behavior,” the center said in 2012. “Prosecutors and other members of law enforcement should direct their attention to real criminal activity.”


  2. As D.A. Hogan stated in his press conference, this behavior goes on in every middle school in the county.

    Pressing charges against 11 to 15 year old children will not deter this behavior in the future. Education is the answer. This is a matter for parents and schools, not police.

    “Prosecutors and other members of law enforcement should direct their attention to real criminal activity.”

    I can think of many issues that would call for a press conference and this is not one of them.

  3. While I agree with the sentiments expressed here, I think it is also important to note a very important point. This IS a real crime with very real victims or what amounts to a very serious sex crime.

    Within hours of the police issuing their press release I heard from the parent of one of the girls whose face was pasted on the body of a pornographic image. That is REAL criminal activity, very very devastatingly real for that totally innocent young teenage victim.

    By middle school teenagers are absolutely old enough to know right from wrong. They may not have the maturity to exercise good judgement in some cases, but unless and until the young criminals who committed these crimes are prosecuted and made to feel shame and pay a proportional price this will continue.

    A very knowledgeable law enforcement professional who spoke with me off the record nailed one of the biggest factors in this equation. The school district itself is notorious for sweeping problems under the rug. TESD is an excellent school district but there is an enormous drug problem at Conestoga and the district ties the hands of police when it comes to sweeping the school for drugs. (It’s always the same date and the kids know to keep their drugs in their backpacks on that day because the police dogs are banned from the classrooms.

    The “move along, there’s nothing to see here!” approach to protecting the vaunted image of TESD schools comes with a price. In this case it is the tacit endorsement of this kind of crime which victimizes innocent teenage girls in the district’s middle schools.

    It’s time to punish the young criminals (they ARE sex crime offenders), address the real crimes that are happening inside these excellent schools and do it in the light. Ultimately addressing the real problems in a real and public way will help eliminate the drug and sex crimes happening inside TESD buildings.

    Yes, this would be a very tough pill for TESD and its board to swallow, but it could go a long way to preventing more of these stories from leading Action News.

  4. If I could jump in here real quick………..the school does an excellent job with this problem. They deal with it every single year. They find out about it, they deal with it, they shut it down and every one moves on. What’s wrong with that? There is a new principal at the TEMS so I don’t know about him but I’ve been a District parent with the previous Principal for 9 years and he could not have handled every one of these situations better.

    I would be very surprised if this same thing doesn’t happen next year and the year after.

  5. Please read:

    “I firmly believe that all children should be educated to act respectfully online and face-to-face,” Gusick said. “I am deeply concerned whenever students make choices that bring harm to themselves or others. I trust that the district staff and parents will continue to work cooperatively to support our students.”

    Supt. Gusick is right. (did I just say that?) Children should be educated and there is no better place to do that than in the schools and at home.

    TE Journalist – middle School students are old enough to tell you they know right from wrong but is the knowing connected to real inner understanding of the consequences of their behavior? I don’t think so.

    Administrators do not “sweep this sexting problem under the rug” More than one parent has told me over the years that when they contacted Administrators about their child being bullied on line, etc., the first thing the Admin. said was “call the police.” Most parents don’t.

    You say:

    “It’s time to punish the young criminals (they ARE sex crime offenders), address the real crimes that are happening inside these excellent schools and do it in the light.”

    It’s time to educate the young students, address the real issue, and move on because punishment through the criminal justice system is not the answer. Education is the answer.

  6. You are correct about the students knowing when the police dogs are coming into check lockers, it’s not always the same days, but somehow the students do know when they are coming in. My daughter would tell me days in advance of a police check. I also believe that all 12-14 year olds are aware that sexting is a crime. If your daughters face was put on a naked image and shown around school (as was done)you may feel differently about how the police should react to this issue. Were the students involved in this crime expelled? Drugs are a problem at TE schools, as they are in most other schools, lets not hide it, that does not solve the problem, lets address the issue, and help the students involved. Knowing the consequences of your actions is a parents job to teach there children, not the schools! Why are students in the elementary schools carrying around cell phones during the school day? I have seen kids with them. If a parent seems to think an 8 year old needs a cell phone, then they can also take the time to instruct them on the proper and improper use of a cell phone. That’s not a job for the police or the school.

    1. I have/had kids in the schools. I’m sure they have never known or know now when dogs will show up to sniff lockers. I believe that 12 to 14 year olds know that sexting is a crime. Knowing and understanding are two very different things.

      If my daughter’s face was put on a naked image and shown around the school, THE LAST THING I would want would be for the police be involved. This is a day in the life at school. They know how to handle it.

  7. I see the police canvasing my neighborhood daily and I appreciate it. I have nothing against the Police.

    I also understand that sexting is a crime and that 12 to 14 year olds can legally be charged.

    IMO, it serves no good purpose to charge children this young with a crime.

    I want to make sure these kids know they did something wrong however, I think saddling them with a criminal record for this is too harsh and punitive.

  8. My child was bullied so badly at VFMS that by 8th grade she refused to get out of bed. Cyber bullying was a routine tactic. The guidance counselor was useless for years and it was not until I threatened legal action, that I was heard and responded to appropriately. I should have gone to the police immediately. These kids DO need an example made of them because they think they can do whatever they want and there will never be consequence.
    These boys copied picture of a random sex act, texted it to everyone in the school and said it was a female classmate. What about the victim? Do you think she has anxiety when everyone makes comments about her her? Do you think her ability to concentrate has been affected? Is she at school in a SAFE environment? Her reputation affected? She is a 11-12 year old child, what if she were your daughter? Yes, those boys deserve exactly what they received and their punishment should be a warning to others who are thinking about behaving like this.

  9. How about this for starters? phones go in lockers until the end of the day. Anyone violating the privilege of having a cell phone at school, loses it if the rule is violated. If you are paying for your child’s cellphone, parent gets the password and does random checks on it. If the child refuses, no phone. If sexting or porn, no phone. Parents need to avoid internet porn themselves – so as not to appear a hypocrite to their kids. just saying

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