A group of high school students find themselves in plenty of trouble tonight after school authorities discovered that they were circulating nude photographs on social media. That was offensive enough to the school which has gone on record to say that the photos were also doctored to embarrass a teacher. The action by the school has prompted a reaction by some parents and today the social media was in frenzy when a malicious rumor surfaced. Reports of a mass expulsion, reportedly as many as fifty students, spread like wildfire across the internet and no sooner had parents and concerned citizens begun calling the school for answers. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports from La Isla Bonita.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The student population of San Pedro High School is somewhere north of five hundred young men and women. Among them are nine co-eds who have been placed on a weeklong suspension in the wake of a recent scandal. Their transgression? Taking nude selfies and disseminating them across social media.
Conchita Flota, Interim Principal, San Pedro High School
“We got reports, it was like a month ago. We got reports that some pictures were being circulated of our students, female students. So as [an] administration we gathered and we decided that, you know, we have to look and see what, if it’s true or not. And we found out that yes, some of our students are in those nude pictures.”
Those provocative images portray five female teens in a state of undress. The photos are reportedly part of an online display of various high school students. Their participation, needless to say, violates the school’s policy.
“So we decided that, the disciplinary committee actually, was informed and it was decided that because it is our school, San Pedro High School, and they are putting our school’s name out there then they deserve a consequence which is five days suspension. That’s what we usually do.”
That disciplinary measure however, has rubbed some parents the wrong way, leading to malicious reports that a mass expulsion was ongoing as a result of the scandal. To make matters worse, someone, a fellow student presumably, doctored an image by transposing the alleged face of a teacher with that of the nude. Four male, second form students have been temporarily removed from their classrooms as a result.
Giselle Flores, Acting Vice Principal, San Pedro High School
“The picture of the alleged teacher was being put on another student so we knew from the very beginning that it was neither the student nor the teacher who was in that picture. But, like what Ms. Flota said, we did send class to class and informed them and we had been discussing along with the counselor that we would like for the chairman of the board, along with possibly a police officer to come to the compound and have a general assembly for all students and inform them of what exactly the consequences are for the school and likewise when it comes to law.”
While the students aren’t necessarily facing time, the question of the severity of the punishment or a lack thereof begs an appropriate answer.
“I believe that five days it’s a punishment that they will not, they don’t like to be, you know, put to work. We don’t have a working suspension. What we do is we send them home for five days. We have tried everything, different things, different strategies for students, in-school suspensions, we have put them to work and we have seen that it’s not working and so we decided that it’s five days.”
The distribution of explicit images online is seemingly nothing new. In fact, since the early days of the internet, porn has been a mainstay. It is a surprise however, that the school’s manual fails to address the issue.
“There are going to be amendments made to the rulebook. There’s going to be, over the summer, some board members along with the administration are going to sit down together and they are going to look over the rules and include cyber bullying, sharing of pornographic material, as well as other issues that have come up throughout the year.”
Whereas much of the emphasis has been placed on penalizing the students, the administration has also reached out to the defamed educator in an effort to help her get through the crisis.
“Like we have been telling parents, it could have been any of us female teachers and it is something that none of us would have appreciated because it’s defamation. They are letting our name be out there and having people in the community actually believing that that is us or that is the particular teacher and it is something that is painful and is embarrassing to an extent because people are out there and they are talking and they are saying yes, this is this person.”
Today word went out on facebook and through the rumour mill that there had been mass expulsions at San Pedro high school after a female teacher shared
a nude picture with a male student – who then circulated it throughout the student body. But, that turned out to be a major exaggeration: tonight 3
second form boys are suspended after they circulated a bogus nude picture claiming it was a female teacher, when, in fact, it was not. Today we caught
up with the Minister of Education, Patrick Faber and he told us that in cases like these, the responsibility rests not with the ministry, but with the
school's board of management.
Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"If it is happening in a high school I keep saying to all concern that the first line of authority - and probably in many cases the final line of
authority is the school's board of management. So we're hoping that they will be acting on the matter promptly as we. We have to be concern but again
it goes with the time and what's happening in the larger world. We cannot expect that situations like this won't occur. If we're living in a time when
technology is blowing out of proportion - this is why we need to be careful. We need to move with the change and we need to make regulations that go
along with that change in order to keep things in line. Yes I'm very concerned but I'm not alarmed, it's not happening in any alarming manner just as
yet and I'm confident that given the mechanisms we have now, that we're able to deal with these situations. I'm pretty sure they won't stop, given the
environment we're living in now."
"Sir you brought up a good point - that leads to my next question in terms of social media and looking at the wider perspective of this issue. Given
that there is a free flow of connectivity between the teacher and the students. And as we've seen with the students at Mopan Technical and teacher Pook
- we would want something further than that, it's an open free flow of communication. Is there any regulation you guys are working on? And looking at
pictures and what we've seen with the conversation with the teacher and students - to me that is alarming."
Hon. Patrick Faber
"Well I'm not saying that the individual situations that have happened are not alarming, I'm saying I don't think it's happening at an alarming scale
where you need to say the entire education system is under attack.”
And the board of management did address this issue. We spoke with the Vice Principal of the San Pedro High School, Giselle Flores this evening and she
told us that it all started as a prank on another female student. Apparently these boys downloaded a nude picture of a woman and circulated it –
claiming that it was a female student.. but the prank doesn’t stop there. Flores elaborated on the incident and clarified a few details.
Giselle Flores - Vice Principal, San Pedro High School
"First of all I would like to clarify that it is not a female teacher. The students were alleging that this was a teacher at our high school - but in
reality this particular picture they students were sharing had been reported by another female student that other male students were trying to pin on
her - saying that it was her nude picture. Now, 2 weeks ago the female teacher came to report to us that these students were circulating an alleged
nude picture of herself. The moment the principal, Ms. Maria Flota and myself saw the picture, we realised it was the same picture that the other young
lady had come to report to us. The first picture that you are mentioning is the exact same picture that the female student reported that the male
student was alleging was her. So when we say that exact same picture, we knew that could not be the teacher if they had tried to pin it on a student.”
"Wow, so pretty much this all started off as just a very mean prank?"
"Yes it is. It started off for a female student and then these young men took it to the next level and tried to say it's one of our female teachers
which is a complete lie."
"We also understand that several students or several of the boys have been expelled from school is that true?”
"That's another clarification that needs to be made. We have not expelled any student from our institution. What happened was that once the report came
in - we started to make queries from these young men. We had then write an incident report of how they go the pictures, how they spread the pictures
and from then these queries were looked at and the disciplinary committee sat down and discussed what action we should take. The action we decided was
that these boys need to go on a 5 days suspension."
Again we stress: The nude pictures that have been circulating the school and probably the community, are not of the female student or teacher. Also the
3 boys have been suspended for 5 days for sharing these pictures. When they return to school they will be sent to the counsellor.
We were doing the same stuff they're doing today back in our day there was just no way to record it to prove it back then (thank god). They also have rule books here for conduct and there's no way they could've enforced them back then. Going home for a quickie at lunch was not unheard of...