Serious talk

Chief of Police Raymond Hale explains what actions constitute a felony when students text or share images with their peers. Neosho County Attorney Linus Thuston, in back, told CHS students about taking threats seriously. “If you see it, you hear it, you report it,” he said in one of the 11 meetings held with the CHS student body on Thursday.

CONNIE WOODARD

USD 413 public relations

Chanute law enforcement and the Neosho County Attorney decided to set the record straight with Chanute students this week.

Criminal threats have been made at the middle school and high school and those need to be taken seriously. There are middle and high school students sharing photographs or “kiddie porn” that could result in felony charges for the sender and the person who receives and shares those images. 

“That needs to stop,” said Chief of Police Raymond Hale as he stood in front of 50 students in the CHS auditorium Thursday. “We’ve seen enough. We’re tired of seeing kids being victimized. It’s got to stop.” 

Neosho County Attorney Linus Thuston, Chief Hale and Detective Chris Pefley talked with all CHS students in small groups on Thursday and with all Royster students on Friday.

Thuston addressed a recent increase in criminal threats and Hale spoke about the sexual exploitation of minors.

These situations are on the rise nationwide and Chanute is not immune, Thuston said.

Since school resumed in January, there have been several instances of criminal threats at the high school and middle school.

The CHS students admitted to being aware of the shooting threat the day after Martin Luther King Day and that the person who made the threat is no longer at their school. 

Thuston laid out the facts. A boy told seven students not to come to school that day because he was going to come in at 8:15 am and begin shooting students and teachers in the commons area and continue down a hallway. The night before this was to happen, one of those students told a parent and police were notified.

Detective Pefley added that police confirmed the student had access to firearms. That knowledge, along with the threat about the high school, constituted what law enforcement and school administration deem a credible threat. Someone made a threat, had a plan, and had access to the weapons to carry it out, Thuston explained.

This is serious, he continued. The problem with the school shootings that have ended tragically is that almost all were preventable. Someone knew, but didn’t tell anyone. No one wants a line of caskets in front of the Memorial Building for students who died when the situation could have been prevented if someone had told.

“You guys are our first line of defense. If you hear it, you have to report it,” Thuston said.

Chief Hale explained the ramifications of sharing photos or asking for photos of another person’s private body parts.

When a boy requests that kind of photo from a girl, that is a felony, he said. When a girl or boy fulfills a request, that’s a felony. When a girl or boy shows the photo to a friend in the locker room, and the friend says send that to me, that’s two more felonies, Hale said.

The sharing of nude or partially-nude photographs among minors is a level five felony in Kansas. At a minimum, that will result in a mug shot and description of the crimes committed placed on the list of sexual offenders for 15 years, Thuston added. That will affect career choices, and whether someone will even hire a person with that background. Even McDonald’s is doing background checks now.

During an investigation two years ago, police found 28 students at the middle school involved in the sharing and sending of such photographs. The students and their parents were invited to the police station to see what their student had texted, shared or received.

Students were under the impression that they could delete the texts or images and they would be erased forever. Not true, Hale said. The local department has the ability to extract anything from a device.

“If you continue to do that, we’re going to have to refer to the county attorney for prosecution,” Hale said. “This has to stop.”

“Don’t let silly decisions put you in a situation that ruins your life or your future,” Thuston added.

 

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