Police launch porn probe over Oregon teen sex videos

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2014 8:00 PM

By Courtney Sherwood

PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - Police in Oregon are investigating reports that high school students videotaped peers engaging in sexual activity and distributed the footage via social media in a case that could lead to child pornography charges, authorities said on Tuesday.

Portland police Sergeant Pete Simpson said a small group of students were involved in the case, but he declined to say how many or elaborate on the content of the videos. It was also not clear whether the teens depicted in the footage consented to being filmed.

Students at Portland's Grant High School told local media that a group of boys and at least one girl appeared in the videos, shot with a mobile phone at the school in what may have been intended initially as a prank. At least one incident took place in a unisex school restroom, KPTV reported.

Police said videos also were filmed off campus, and a school district official said the footage was distributed via social media, though it was not clear how widely it was circulated.

Portland police said teens who shared the videos could face child porn charges under an Oregon law making it a felony to distribute images of minors engaging in sexual acts. No adults were suspected of involvement, police said.

The case came to light when a police officer on duty at Grant High became aware of the videos and referred the matter to school officials and the police sex-crimes unit.

School officials declined to discuss the investigation, citing privacy concerns. But Principal Carol Campbell urged parents in a letter on Monday to discuss the academic and legal consequences of misusing social media with their children.

In 2011, after two incidents in which teens faced possible felony prison terms but were instead sentenced to less severe penalties, Oregon lawmakers considered legal changes that would have reduced sentencing for so-called teen sexting charges. Those proposals never passed.

More than half of teenagers surveyed for a Drexel University study published in June said they had sent sexually explicit text messages, and nearly a third said they also had sent explicit images. Most said they were unaware such content could be considered child pornography.

Twenty U.S. states have passed laws in recent years to shield teens from child pornography charges for sharing images with peers, the Cyberbullying Research Center reported.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Steve Gorman and Mohammad Zargham)