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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Landon: “Feeling of Dismay” Over Nude Photos

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Elliott Landon: “Feeling of failure this could happen.” Dave Matlow/WN file photo
Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon says there is a “feeling of dismay” among Westport educators and parents over nude photos circulated electronically by middle school and high school students.

Breaking a silence on the matter he first reported in a letter to parents earlier this month (See WestportNow May 15, 2008), Landon told The New York Times: “There’s a feeling of dismay and a feeling of failure that this could happen.”

Landon, who has refused to comment to local news media about his letter, told the Times Sunday Connecticut section that parents and school officials are working to develop more effective teaching tools to warn Westport students of cyberspace dangers.

He said it was too late in the school year to launch new programs but that the Westport schools would beef up their cyberspace initiatives in the fall.

He told the newspaper that administrators would be seeking additional help from clergy members and trying harder to impress upon parents the dangers of inappropriate computer use.

“Our concern is with children exposing themselves to others who have an interest in child pornography and who will act on it if they can,” Landon said, according to the newspaper.

He said the school learned of the photos when several students who were apparently worried about their classmates told school personnel that nude photos of their friends were being sent around electronically.

He said a staff member at one of the middle schools learned that more than one child was involved and contacted the police, who said they are investigating to see if child pornography laws have been violated..

He has not said which students were involved, nor how many.

A source familiar with the investigation said at least one 12-year-old girl has been identified as involved in the transmission of the pictures.

“I don’t know how widespread it is,” Landon told the Times. “Which school isn’t important. The point is to try to develop trusting relationships with the kids.”

He said he believed that the children who came forward did it “so their friends can be helped and be protected.”

“They either think a friend is behaving inappropriately or could be harmed or exploited,” he said.

All the incidents involved computers, not cellphones, said Lt. David E. Kassay, detective bureau commander of the Westport Police Department, the Times said.

Landon said that no disciplinary actions had been taken to date against any student.

Teachers and administrators were shocked by the developments,  Landon said in the interview. “It’s not like we haven’t warned kids,” he said.

Landon said the schools have conducted workshops for parents, and guidance programs and meetings for students.

The schools have also worked with clergy members and local agencies, including teaming with the United Way in a Positive Youth Development program.

“But still these things happen,” he said.

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Posted 05/31/08 at 07:31 PM  Permalink



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