11/04/07 — Greene officials say they monitor laptops

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Greene officials say they monitor laptops

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 4, 2007 2:16 AM

Three laptops containing student-produced pornography -- seized from Greene County Central High School by the State Bureau of Investigation -- should not define an otherwise good program, the principal says.

It's also a warning to parents, Principal Randy Bledsoe said, that the schools know what's going on with the Apple Macintosh laptops distributed for free use by students.

"It does tell the parents we are monitoring how students are using these laptops," Bledsoe said.

The principal said he was "not at liberty to talk about the specific misuses of these laptops at this time."

Prosecutors said one 16-year-old accidentally sent a video of himself and his 15-year-old girlfriend to his teacher, meaning to send a homework file instead.

Yet another 15-year-old male student had a video of himself in a sexual situation on his laptop, intending to send it to a girlfriend in Ohio, prosecutors said.

Under updated manufacture of pornography laws, the two students could face as much as five years in prison, even for a first offense, prosecutors said.

District Attorney Branny Vickory said he is struggling with whether to charge the students.

The district attorney wondered if legislators had any idea the law could find its way into a public school setting with school-owned computers.

In the meantime, Greene County schools and Vickory's office plan to educate students and parents so it doesn't happen again.

Prosecutors plan on shooting an educational video aimed at preventing misuse of student laptops in Greene County.

At least part of that video may be shot Thursday at Wayne County Jail, prosecutors said.

Assistant District Attorney Jan T. Kroboth said that the jail in Greene County has only 22 people, so the Wayne County Jail made a better choice for dramatic effect.

The prosecutors plan on using a shot of the jail door slamming shut, Mrs. Kroboth said.

"We're going to work with the SBI and the school board -- we'll actually have an SBI agent and us talk and try to educate people.

"There's a lot of areas now, with the use of computers, that people don't realize that can get them in serious trouble," Mrs. Kroboth said.

The severity of the offense is another factor. Since both of the videos in question either involved a 15-year-old minor, the offense is a Class D felony, Vickory said, punishable by 51 to 64 months in prison for a first-time, non-aggravated offense.

That spells out to between four and five years of possible prison time.

"I was talking this over with the doctors of education (in Greene County), and they didn't know about it," Vickory said. "If they weren't aware of it, I doubt the students and parents are."

Bledsoe said the school system has a plan in place to prevent future misuse of technology.

"I think what it's going to do is bring about a deeper awareness of the bond that all of us have in helping our kids to better understand the technologies that can help us meet our goals.

"There are always teachable moments," Bledsoe said.