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Pasco Tribune

Porn image on confiscated phone leads to arrest of Wiregrass student

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Published:   |   Updated: July 2, 2013 at 04:26 PM

WESLEY CHAPEL - Deputies arrested a 15-year-old Wiregrass Ranch High School student Monday, charging her with possession of child pornography that was found on a cell phone confiscated in May during a class, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

On May 21, the student's white iPhone was confiscated by a teacher because the student was suspected of cheating on a test.

When administrators searched the phone for photos of the test, they found a photo of a 15-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl performing a sex act.

During the investigation, authorities discovered the photo was sent to another Wiregrass Ranch student, who then posted it on Twitter.

That student, whose identity was not released, is expected to be arrested soon, according to sheriff's office cyber crime detective William Lindsey.

"Any time you take a photograph or a video of children, anyone under the age of 18, engaged in sexual conduct, it's considered production of child pornography," Lindsey said. "It's illegal to take the photograph or the video. It's illegal to possess it and it's illegal to transmit it.

"Those are all separate Florida statutes."

The teen couple knew the girl was in the room, Lindsey said. The photo was distributed after the 14-year-old female victim and the 15-year-old girl ended their friendship, he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Wiregrass Ranch principal Robyn White recorded an audio message that was sent by phone to parents.

"This is a very serious offense and could have negative consequences for the rest of this student's life," White said, reading from a script. "I want to urge parents to monitor their students' phone and Internet activity to protect them from similar charges. I also want to remind students that it's not worth it to take images of body parts or activities that could result in criminal charges."

The message will be sent to parents of current students as well as to incoming freshmen using an automated phone calling software called SchoolConnects, White said.

"We do want them to take it serious," she said. "We want them to understand this is a serious offense."

Linda Cobbe, spokeswoman for the Pasco County School District, said the incident isn't surprising considering technology and its availability to teens.

"We know that students do take pictures and they share them," Cobbe said. "We just have to keep pounding it home that you can get in big trouble if you do this. Don't use your cell phones to take inappropriate pictures and certainly don't share inappropriate pictures with anyone."

School resource officers do have programs where they warn students to not engage in that type of behavior, Cobbe said.

Lindsey said it is important for parents to monitor and be involved in checking their child's cell phone as well as any social media sites the student may use.

"The message to parents is understand that your children have access to the Internet through their Xbox, through their PlayStation, through their iPod, through their cell phone, through the school library, through their iPad, through their tablet," Lindsey said. "They have access to the Internet all these different ways. You have to educate yourself as a parent and understand that your child has access to the Internet, therefore people on the Internet have access to you children, putting them in danger."

He implored parents to know their children's passwords, know what social media sites they visit, monitor those sites by setting up their own page on the same sites their children use and become friends with their kids on those sites.

Lindsey used an example of a female, who is an adult now, but was 15 at the time, when she was live chatting with her then-boyfriend on her computer. He recorded the session without her knowledge while she was performing a sex act, Lindsey said. He later posted the video online and it can still be accessed today by typing in her name and doing a web search.

"That's a problem we're trying to educate kids on: You can't take back what you put on the Internet," Lindsey said. "There is no 'taking it off the Internet.' There's no such thing because you don't have control of it any more."

edaniels@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1860

Twitter: @EDanielsTBO

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