UNION COUNTY, Ga. — Officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Enotah district attorney’s office are hosting a parent meeting Thursday night after officials said 46 students at Union County High School were caught sexting.
Photos were shared through text, Snapchat and Instagram among others, school officials said. Students involved faced a range of punishments from short-term suspension to alternative school placement. Union County Schools Superintendent John Hill said. It is unclear at this time if any criminal charges will be filed.
In a post on Facebook, Union County High School encouraged students, parents, guardians and other family members to attend Thursday’s meeting.
“I know it's an uncomfortable topic but PLEASE come to our parent night to learn the truth about the dangers, laws, and penalties of this crime,” the post read. “It is a widespread problem with teens in our nation and we need your help in fighting this new challenge. Together we can make change!”
The Sexting and Cyber Safety Presentation is happening Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Union County Fine Arts Center.
Attorney Randy Kessler said because it's all considered child pornography, even knowledge of the crime without reporting it can make you complicit.
"If you have on your record that you shoplifted a pack of gum when you were 8 years old, it's not a good thing you could probably explain that away in a job interview," Kessler said. "But if you have to look at a record and say sexual crime, you know that's something you may never recover from."
Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Shay Thomas said sexting can have a lasting impact to those involved.
"A child's brain is still developing and so if this is in your psyche then of course that's going to contribute to you becoming more sexually curious, more sexually involved or active if you haven't done so," Thomas said.
But just because your teen is sexting doesn't mean they're sexually active, Thomas said. She said some teens may feel pressured to join in because it allows them to appear "cool" without getting physical.
"There was a recent journal article about how one in four teenagers have received a sex message and I think one in seven or eight have sent one," Thomas said.
Thomas encourages parents to have full-circle conversations with their teens that include talking about the moral ramifications, but also the legal consequences.
"This is a teachable moment," she said.