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Community Forum on Sexting for Parents, Students and Citizens

Sexting Forum for Parents, Students and Ciitizens

To the parents, students and citizens of Albemarle County:

The Albemarle County Police Department, Albemarle County School Division and the Commonwealth's Attorney Office are working together to educate the community about "sexting". Sexting is a growing problem affecting our students, schools and citizens. The teenagers involved are sending text messages, often to a friend or significant other, with sexually explicit images attached. This can be considered the production or distribution of child pornography. The images are often forwarded to other students, creating additional cases for the possession and distribution of child pornography. Not only is this harmful for everyone involved, but it is illegal and a very serious offense.

The distribution of child pornography is a felony. If found guilty, the offender can be placed on the Sex Offender Registry. The repercussions are severe and teenagers need to be aware of the consequences. The school system is working with the ACPD and the Commonwealth's Attorney to create more educational opportunities for students in Albemarle County Schools. School Resource Officers will conduct additional training for the students but it is important that parents also join in the conversation. Our goal is to work together to educate and prevent future cases of sexting in our community.

Although it is not publicized because the cases involve juveniles, the Albemarle County Police Department is responding to an increasing number of sexting cases. In fact, the ACPD has investigated seven of these cases in a six week period. We have reason to believe there are additional, unreported cases.

In addition to the legal consequences, there are very real emotional effects on the victim in these cases. Once an image is created and shared, it can never be taken back. The victims often think the image is a private message, only sent to someone they trust. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. When the image is shared, the victim feels betrayed, embarrassed and humiliated.

Parents, please know this is something happening across the country and here in our community. Talk to your children about it and monitor your child's cell phone use. Students, before engaging in this behavior, consider the legal, emotional and social consequences.

We have attached tips for parents and links with additional on-line resources. By taking more proactive approaches now, we hope to prevent future cases of sexting in our community. It is important to remember that this behavior is happening at an early age, so start the conversation before your child has a chance to become a victim.

To continue this dialogue and provide additional resources, we will be hosting a community forum for parents and students. A panel of experts will be available to provide additional information and also answer your questions. Please join us for this important conversation on Monday, December 2th at Monticello High School from 7-8:30 p.m.

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