The Shawnee Police Department is currently investigating the actions of a 17-year-old male student who allegedly took inappropriate cellphone photos and videos of female students without their consent at school.
According to an email from principal Tobie Waldeck directed toward students’ parents and guardians, the videos and photos recovered are considered a breach of privacy due to the close proximity at which they were taken.
Because the investigation is still open and regarding a juvenile, school resource officer Mo Loridon said that administration can give little comment about details of the situation.
Loridon said the legal line regarding taking pictures of others in public places can become unclear because personal boundaries differ.
“This is where we talk about reasonable suspicion, like, what does a reasonable person think?” Loridon said. “It all depends on what a normal person would believe is private. You have reasonable expectation in bathrooms, locker rooms, bedrooms, a doctor’s office, places that [people] would go, ‘I shouldn’t have to worry about anyone invading my privacy.’ And then you have those gray-line places where … if you’re in public and you’re displaying what you’re displaying, then it’s open to public.”
Using a concealed camera to film or photograph others through clothing to view the body or undergarments qualifies as a breach of privacy, according to state law. Privacy is violated when the person does not give consent nor have knowledge of the pictures or videos being taken, and the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
This sort of breach of privacy is classified as a felony, and, with a conviction, can lead to 15-17 months in prison. The student under investigation has not been accused of any charges.
A junior girl, who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid being publicly associated with the investigation, said she witnessed the student under investigation taking photos of another student. According to the source, the male student was holding his phone under a girl’s skirt while walking up the main staircase. When she reached the top of the stairs, the anonymous junior said she saw the student “holding his phone sideways behind a girl that was wearing leggings … at a super weird angle.”
According to Loridon, the student is not currently attending school and will not return for at least the rest of the school year to ensure safety.
The anonymous junior girl said she thinks the student should be punished for his actions.
“Something needs to happen [and] he needs to be put in his place,” the junior girl said. “That’s not OK at all.”
Junior Riley Doyle said, while she agrees disciplinary action from the school is necessary, she doesn’t think legal action should be pursued.
“Everyone makes mistakes, and I know this is a big issue, but everyone deserves a second chance as long as they know they’re in the wrong,” Doyle said. “I don’t think it should be a legal matter, just because we’re in high school. He is a minor and it could affect him in the future, like if he tries to get a job or anything, it could actually ruin his life.”
Loridon thinks the incident should encourage students to become more aware of their surroundings and boundaries.
“Boundaries are always important, and people need to understand what boundaries are,” Loridon said. “I think it’s important that people understand where their boundary is, and they keep people out of their boundaries. I think that’s important in … just simply being aware of what’s going on around you.”
Doyle feels that administrators shouldn’t alter any major policies just because of a single student’s actions.
“I would hope that they could give all the rest of the students the benefit of the doubt and not let it affect everything because of one person’s bad choices,” Doyle said.
Loridon said school technology use policies will not be affected by the issue.
Ultimately, Loridon said the incident will not have a major impact on the safety of the school.
“I don’t think one incident defines our school safety,” Loridon said. “Did it happen? Yes. Was it not so good? Yes. Are we still safe at Mill Valley? Yes.”
Administrators encourage anyone with information regarding the situation to contact a member of the administrative staff or Loridon.