Sexting and cyberbullying is becoming a nationwide issue. It has recently reared its ugly head in the North Georgia Mountains city of Blairsville. There were victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. All apparently have suffered in one way or another.
Union County Schools Superintendent John Hill, Assistant Superintendent Paula Davenport, and Assistant Superintendent David Murphy were available for a candid interview at the Union County Board of Education office. They spoke about the recent events relating to Union County High School students who were involved in a sexting scandal.
Hill advised the investigation is ongoing because “You still have to follow up on some information.”
No arrests have been made at press time.
Conclusion of the School’s investigation showed only 46 students were involved in the sexting scandal. Disciplinary actions against the teens are on a case-by-case basis and the severity of the crimes committed by each student; suspension or alternative schools, Hill added.
According to Hill, the School system became aware of the scandal “a few weeks ago”. Since that time, the Union Schools Police Investigator, Keith Lockwood, began investigating the allegations.
Lockwood declined an interview referring all calls regarding the incident to Hill.
The students involved in this incident are aged 14-18, freshman to seniors. All indicators have been isolated to Union County High School students at this time, Hill said.
Counseling will be available for students, whether a victim of these crimes or not. Davenport stated “We have advised them to reach out to school counselors. We have met with pastors in the area and they offered to pass the word there would be some Christian counseling available. Of course, there a few private counselors in the area as well.”
Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jeff Langley hosted a meeting for all concerned citizens, parents, and students on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at the Union County Arts Center.
GBI’s Jamie Abercrombie and Steven Blackwell presented a slide show on ‘Sexting’ and ‘Cyberbullying’; a riveting presentation on the dangers of sexting and cyberbullying. Emphasis was made on parents monitoring their child’s social media actions and interactions.
Langley told the crowd gathered at the Union County Arts Center Thursday night he did not want to ruin any child’s life in this matter, but would take harsh measures if any of these students run afoul of the law again.
Many citizens were upset with the entire situation involving these teens and the punishments meted to them. Arguing the punishment is not in relation to the possible felony charges all 46 students could be facing, it was deemed by some these students were getting off “with a slap on the wrist.”
Ann Houser, a member of the audience, said, “I can’t imagine kids being stupid, whatever you want to call it, to do something like that. It just blows me away.”
Dakota Stanger, 13 year-old daughter of Melonie and Ken Stanger, stated, “First rumor I heard it was one of the teacher’s daughters sending pictures. And I heard people they didn’t bother with (handling the situation) until a teacher’s daughter was involved. People are mad about it. The kids in this community shouldn’t be involved in this. It’s crazy.” She continued, “The cyber bullying, I don’t get that. They get home and they are on their computers 24-7. Why would they do that? They don’t need social media at a young age. They don’t need to have access to everything. Websites were made for adults. Adults should keep it.”
Melonie Stanger told FYN, “I think it’s probably been going on for a couple of years. I think it’s blown up so much I don’t think it can be covered up at this point because so many are affected by it from what I’ve heard. And I think actions are being taken. I hope it’s got some teeth behind it and put a stop to it and change the culture of our young kids (to) realize this is not acceptable. These kids are not ready for this kind of technology and all the dangers that come with it. You have to wait until you get to a certain age and are mature enough to handle the responsibility of tools like this.”
Ken Stanger, when asked about what punishment should be meted out at this time, “You scare the hell out them first of all. You get a kid by himself and he’s most likely not going to do anything stupid. But you get a bunch of kids together, friends, stupidity is rampant. I think some dares were made, things were done, and it escalated. And it should have never even started. I don’t think their lives should be ruined, but I do agree with the prosecutor that this is the time to scare them. This is the time to tell them ‘I could go a lot further but I don’t want to ruin your life but if I see you again, I’m going after you.’ And he needs to stick with that. If any of the boys or girls get into the system again for that kind of activity, then they should go to jail. If they didn’t learn their lesson, then it’s ‘I’m sorry. We gave you a pass, you messed with you, you’re going to jail.’ I think that’s the way it should be. I don’t think the school is covering it up either. And to be honest, it’s probably been going on for awhile. I think the school is handling it right. They’re doing a good job.”
If you or your child suspects or has been a victim of sexting or cyberbullying, inform law enforcement authorities immediately.
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