If you’ve been skeptical or indifferent about the potential perils of sexting and whether schools need to be concerned about students sending inappropriate photos of themselves electronically to classmates, you’ve got to read this piece in GQ magazine. It chronicles in frightening detail a case of a Wisconsin high school student who allegedly duped teenage boys into sending nude photos of themselves and, later, blackmailed them into performing sexual acts.
Police say that late last year, Eisenhower High School student Anthony Stancl, as an 18-year-old senior, posed as a girl on social-networking sites, then persuaded boys at the school in New Berlin, Wis., to send provocative photos of themselves. Stancl then allegedly threatened to make the photos public if the boys didn’t agree to meet with him in person. At meetings with at least seven of the boys, Stancl allegedly sexually assaulted the victims and took additional photos during the acts.
The GQ article goes on to describe how officials at the school had sought to make Eisenhower “a national model of innovation” and had hoped to be chosen as a pilot school for a mobile learning project that would equip all its students with iPhones or iPods. The piece doesn’t go into detail about whether the school has a policy addressing the sexting issue. But it does say that a parent training session on cybersafety held before Stancl’s arrest drew in just two participants. The following week a similar meeting was packed with concerned parents.
Several national education and law enforcement organizations are trying to raise awareness of the problem, as I wrote about last month, and are urging districts to address it directly with new policies, training programs for parents, teachers, and students, and partnerships with police and social service agencies.
The Wisconsin case is extreme, but it gives the issue a level of urgency and will hopefully force adults who deal with teenagers to take note and take action.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.