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Updated: Tue, 19 Nov 2013 09:50:22 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Laval teens' porn charges are 'extreme,' says parent committee chair



A Laval community is reeling after a group of local teens were arrested for distributing explicit photos on their smartphones. CBC

A Laval community is reeling after a group of local teens were arrested for distributing explicit photos on their smartphones. CBC

Some members of a Laval, Que., parent committee say child pornography charges are too "extreme" for a group of teens who allegedly distributed explicit photos of their classmates.

Last week, Laval police arrested 10 boys, aged 13 to 15, who are accused of trading photos among themselves on their smartphones.

Police allege the photos were obtained from the smartphone application Snapchat.

All the teens were charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. Two of the boys also face charges for producing child pornography.

Jennifer Maccarone, chair of the parents' committee at the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, said that while the boys’ behaviour is serious, she thinks the Crown prosecutors have gone overboard.

Although she said the allegations are serious, the child pornography law should take into account an offender's age.

She said the general feeling at the parent committee is that the charges go too far.

“This is a bit on the extreme. We need to be reminded that they are still children,” she told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.

Maccarone said that although the boys should be held accountable, the laws need to be adapted for this kind of situation.

“They’re not adults. They do not process information the same way that we do. Their brains are not fully developed at this point.”

Maccarone acknowledged it’s important to keep a close eye on how students are using technology, especially in light of the risk of cyberbullying.

But, she said, teachers and authorities must take generational differences into account as they work to educate children.

“Sexting and this type of exchange is a new form of flirting — it’s a new way of showing that I’m interested in you.”

School will focus on proactive education

Staff at the school board are taking the incident seriously.

Stephanie Vucko, director general of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, said although incidents like this often happen outside school hours, the school often ends up dealing with the fallout.

She wouldn’t say whether any of the boys had been suspended. She said it will be up to the courts to decide what happens next.

Vucko said the school would continue to work with Laval police to educate their students about the safe use of technology.

“This is absolutely a teachable moment,” Maccarone said.

Both Maccarone and Vucko agreed it’s important to focus on how to prevent this from happening again.

“The internet is written in ink," Maccarone said.

"If this is not something you would send to your parents, if it’s not something that you would want to have shared amongst a variety of people, then maybe you need to reconsider before you press send.”

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