Kids will be felons

Two Utah fifth graders may face felony charges for showing pornography to classmates on a classroom computer.

The two 11-year-olds got around the computer’s filter by typing a keyword into the browser that wasn’t on the filter’s list of pornographic trigger words. In doing so, they pulled up pornography, multiple images that they then showed to at least nine of their classmates.

The Alpine District school suspended the students, who’ve not been in trouble before, and called the police.

Prosecutors could charge the two with dealing harmful material to a minor, a second-degree felony, or they could decide to charge them with “providing an improper display,” a class A misdemeanor.

Police say the kids will more than likely face the felony charge.

Idiotic. And I’m not talking about the 11-year-olds.

About Joanne


  1. I believe in taking responsibility for my actions. I am not a lawyer. But this sounds very strange to me. Kids while under the direct supervision of the state, using the instruments of the state are charged with a crime against the state. Shouldn’t the bureaucrats and school staff be charged alongside the children?

    This isn’t like they brought porn to school. The school brought porn to them.

  2. “Officers are now trying to balance the seriousness of the act and that it might just be a case of kids being kids.”

    You think?

    Let their parents deal with this.

  3. Hey! We are doing it all for the children!

  4. Glenn Garvin says:

    Dammit, Joanne, you miss the most obvious point — what was the WORD?

  5. Not only is this not a crime, it’s a triumph of child-centered, student-directed learning. These kids were empowered, motivated and actively engaged in discovery, and even shared the result of their new-found knowledge with their classmates.

    It works! It really works!!

  6. Trivial point, but I think this was in Utah, not California.

  7. Porn filters cannot work. Take a phrase like “teabagging” and do you filter all the images? Is it political censorship or not?

    Look up “naturism” and you can probably see a naked child in three or four clicks if you are searching images. It might not fit everyone’s definition of porn, but a scholastic porn filter probably wouldn’t bar it since it’s not using the magic terms (which are proprietary corporate secrets, of course.) But still, what good are these filters?

    The world wide web is not child friendly. Sorry, but that’s just the fact we’re all going to have to get used to. Words have too many meanings, images travel too fast, and censorship is almost impossible anyway. Some sites can be blocked, sure. But to censor everything necessary to ensure children are only shown appropriate sites? It’s just impossible.

  8. You’re right, Bart. I’ve changed it to Utah.

  9. Yes, this is overkill. However, do keep in mind that while they may be charged with felonies, they’d being charged in juvenile court which, if it’s anything similar in Utah to what it’s like in Florida, is usually a total joke even in serious cases.

  10. GoogleMaster says:

    Wow, jon. At first I was worried because here it was 22:30 and I hadn’t learned anything new yet today. But never fear, the intartubes to the rescue! The urban dictionary lists a definition for that phrase that is almost 6 years old. Where have I been? Obviously not in a middle school classroom, or I probably would have known that term already.

  11. Two fifth graders will be charged with a felony because they behaved like fifth graders?

    I have to say that losing computer privileges for a week would have a greater deterrent effect than saying, “we’ll charge you with a felony.” Heck, not being allowed to use the computer, while everyone else can, would be more painful for the kids than being suspended.

    As a parent, why should I ever agree to allow my children to go online in school? There is nothing available online which makes it worth the risk of the legal expense of defending my children from felony charges. Nor is it worth running the risk of a felony charge of “dealing harmful material to a minor.”

  12. Devilbunny says:

    Parent2, if you don’t allow them online at school, and they do it anyway (which they will!) – then they’ve now broken not just the law, but the school rules. Double suspension.

  13. Margo/Mom says:

    Basically the school just wants off the hook. They don’t want someone accusing them of allowing kids to look at porn in school, or of not reporting it to the authorities. If an adult did it, it would be considered child abuse and school officials would be in big time trouble if they didn’t make a report. When a kid does it–well it takes quite a stretch to make a case for a felony, and one hopes that a juvenile court judge will toss the whole thing out. The judge will have to give thought to things like intent, and whether a kid showing porn to a kid is the same thing as an adult showing porn to a kid.

    The reporting laws tend to be a bit vague with regard to what has to be reported–workshops I attended stressed that it is not up to the adult who is aware of, or suspects, behavior to determine if abuse is actually occuring. Calling police sets in motion a chain of events that ends up with charges and going to court, etc. I wonder if the same is necessarily true if the report were made instead to the local Children’s Services organization. In my experience they are able to not only meet the reporting requirements, but also separate out kid on kid kinds of offenses as being a legitimate area for the adults involved (ie: school and parents) to handle.

    Despite understanding some of the reasons why the adults are behaving in such a manner, I still have problems with it, and find it to be also symptomatic of a larger inability of schools to know how to deal with the things that fall into the category of “discipline.” Whether there is some dim belief that referral to another system is a way to get a kid some help (woefully untrue–juvenile justice has nowhere near the resources found within a school system), or an elitist belief that such things are beneath educators to have to deal with, or just simple ignorance and inability to respond based on knowledge of kids’ development, it seems as though more stuff is ending up being tossed out for police and judges to deal with. It worries me. When there are no means of responding to small problems, they tend to get much bigger.

  14. “Parent2, if you don’t allow them online at school, and they do it anyway (which they will!) – then they’ve now broken not just the law, but the school rules. Double suspension.”

    I’d rather a double suspension than a felony conviction. Dunno, that’s just me, I guess.

    Also, assuming that children will disobey any rule one makes does not lead to better discipline. I’d love to see a school which thinks about its rules, chooses the rules it needs, and then enforces those rules. Oh, and if rules are continually broken, looks into the expectations and procedures which the school put into place which make it difficult for schoolchildren to obey the rules.

    Our school makes many rules, but enforces few, usually for people whom they don’t like. This is not a healthy atmosphere.

    To return to the looming felony charge, I have yet to see anything, or read of anything, in educational opportunities available online, which make it worth the risk. If schools are making a habit of turning such incidents over to police and prosecutors to handle, then it’s just not worth it. Children are young monkeys. They are curious, and they will try to get around any system you set up. If they find anything interesting, they’ll show their buddies. If it’s useful to torment peers, they’ll try that. It’s in our nature to be curious and experiment, especially when young.

    I have no faith in the justice system to use good judgement. Quite often, judges feel that they have little leeway under the law. The laws dealing with child pornography and abuse of minors can be draconian in their provisions. Prosecutors run for office, which means that they don’t want to be charge with being “soft on crime.” If such a case gets to the police, you’ve already lost time and money, and you’re very close to lifelong consequences for a child. I also do not agree with the common perception that mandated counseling is always helpful, or at least harmless. I like the internet, but the risk of such prosecutions is just too great.

  15. Lightly Seasoned says:

    I think it is a mistake to extrapolate one extreme case reported by the me to all, most, or even some schools. One never hears of the countless (daily) instances of similar situations handled appropriately.

    Many years ago, one of my students managed to get around the filters and printed out a photo of a very large naked woman, which he then proceded to tape to his pant leg. Not achieving quite all the attention he was after, he found a reason to go to the front of my room and wave his thigh around so everyone could enjoy.

    I believe he was suspended for a few days and told to apologize to me personally for bringing pornography into my classroom. Perfectly appropriate for the situation, which was far more about being a goofy 16-year-old boy than anything else. I think the current consequence is suspending internet privs for the rest of the year and a few days of ISS.

    (I was shocked, shocked, I tell you by the photo and scolded and huffed in class — I’m still laughing about it.)

  16. Jon, thanks for expanding my vocabulary. I happened to surf past CNBC this afternoon, some show called “Countdown”, and saw & heard your term used repeatedly for several minutes in reference to the tax day “tea party” protests. Things are so much more enlighening when you understand all the subtleties.

  17. Thanks to technology, it’s getting easier and easier to obtain a criminal record. We really are doing a good job of getting these children out of schools and into jails.

    Hall Monitor

  18. Lightly Seasoned says:

    Shockingly, I find my students manage to get themselves into jail the old-fashioned way: drugs, murder, and mayhem.

  19. “kids being kids”?…….is that what they call this now…..gee, an 11 yro girl gets pregnant and she is a slut, but the liddle boys are just being “kids”…..

    porno and especially the crap featured on the internet is nothing more than vicious attacks against females….dehumanizing…demeaning…disturbing…..


    charge them…..and the supposed adults that permitted the liddle boys to have computer time that was not supervised….

  20. So they showed the pics to the rest of the class. How did they have time for that? Weren’t they being supervised by the teacher?

    Internet filters easily reduce the responsibility of the supervising adults – ‘I don’t need to watch what they are doing, there’s a filter’.

    The school should be charged – the kids should be reprimanded, perhaps they should be made to show their parents what they were looking at. But a felony charge?

  21. Suspend them both for a week each and make them write a paper on the ethics of computer usage and the Internet – and read it to the adults at the next PTA meeting.

    But a felony charge? Jail time? Ridiculous. I suppose that in this day and age, if a couple of teens uncover Dad’s hidden Playboy magazines in the store house in the back yard, that Dad will be facing jail time, too…

    When did our society lose its common sense?