December 7, 2005
A 17-year-old Wilson Central High School student could face as many as 200 charges for allegedly viewing child pornography on a school computer, officials say.
"There's evidence that 100-200 photos were pulled up and each one of them could end up being a separate count," Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said.
The youth — who has already been suspended — was disciplined last year "relating (to) some potential threats that also occurred at the school," he said.
Wilson County Director of Schools Dr. Jim Duncan said the illegal computer activity was apparently taking place "well before hours."
"It's a regular school class that is offered before school … It starts about 6 a.m. and apparently that's when this was done," Duncan said. "Sometimes students need to gain an extra credit to graduate or it's a special interest class. In this case, it was an electronics class."
He said the youth managed to bypass a "filter system" supplied by the state designed to keep questionable content beyond the reach of students.
"It works very well, but with the computer sophistication of kids today, they're able to get around their home filters and a lot of others too," Duncan said. "I don't know if he has a computer at home or not, but I'd have to say that the chances that he's doing it only at school are pretty remote."
He called the incident "disturbing."
"It's misuse of a school computer, there's no question about that, and the fact that it was child pornography has given law enforcement a pretty good jolt to do what they need to do in terms of prosecution," Duncan said. "We certainly hope they will prosecute it to the extent that they can."
Ashe said the youth was taken into "protective custody" late Tuesday as investigators pondered their next move in the case, which he said could potentially result in a staggering number of charges.
"From what we've been told by the district attorney's office, every one of those images could be a separate charge, so he could be looking at anywhere from 100 to 200 charges on this," Ashe said.
When asked if the images were of other teenagers or younger children, the sheriff said he had not yet viewed the photographs.
"I haven't seen the photos yet, but I have a sense that they're going to be younger than that," Ashe said.
Duncan said late Monday he had not viewed the images in question.
Ashe said investigators believe the youth printed out and "shared" some photos with other students.
"There have been statements made that the individual has shared pornography with other students," he said. "It is, from our standpoint, a very serious matter."
He indicated the incident has left some uneasy about the potential for future computer misuse by students.
"You just have to figure that if one student has enough technical skill to do it, then others are able to do it as well," Ashe said.
Ashe and Duncan confirmed the student was suspended last year for letters he allegedly wrote which were alternately described as "threatening" and part of a plan to obtain weapons.
The student's history "could weigh on what is done to him" when he undergoes a hearing before education officials, likely in January, which could result in his expulsion, Duncan said.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Teen may face child porn charges
December 7, 2005