Durham County

DPS, sheriff’s office continue to investigate sex video at Southern High School

By Greg Childress

gchildress@heraldsun.com

March 06, 2018 05:00 AM

DURHAM

Investigators continue to look into an incident at the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability in which two students are believed to have been recorded on video having sex in the school’s weight room.

On Monday, Durham Public Schools officials said the alleged consensual sexual activity between the male student and female student may have occurred Feb. 20. DPS began to investigate after administrators received a report about the incident. The Durham County Sheriff’s Office is also investigating.

“We cannot comment on specific disciplinary actions, but board policy will be followed,” DPS spokesman Chip Sudderth said in a statement. “Parents/guardians of the allegedly involved students have been notified, and school social workers/counselors are involved as well.”

Sudderth confirmed last week that investigators are looking into whether the recording of the two students was shared with other students, as has been rumored, and whether it was made without the female student’s consent.

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DPS considers the transmission of any “sexually explicit messages or any nude, partially nude, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive photographs, video recordings, or other visual depictions of themselves or others” a Level II offense with possible penalties that include in-school interventions, in-school discipline, short-term suspension of no longer than 10 days and possible long-term suspension (with aggravating factors) lasting more than 10 days.

Students are also warned in the Student Code of Conduct that “transmission of such images or messages to, among, or depicting minors may cause grave psychological or emotional harm and may violate state or federal child pornography laws, even when sent or received consensually.”

Anyone who downloads or shares such a video could face federal charges under U.S. law that “prohibits the production, distribution, reception, and possession of an image of child pornography using or affecting any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce.”

‘Inappropriate interactions’ by employee

In another matter, Sudderth said DPS has shared information with law enforcement officials about an allegation that a “non-licensed” employee at the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability engaged in inappropriate interactions with a student.

Also known as classified employees, non-licensed employees include teacher assistants, bus drivers and cafeteria workers and other employees whose job does not require them to hold a professional license.

Last week, Sudderth said that alleged incident had not moved beyond an investigation by the school district’s Human Resources Department.

The employee at the center of the allegation has not returned to work since DPS began its investigation, Sudderth said. The employee remains on the district’s payroll.

“State and federal laws protecting the privacy of students and state employees prevent us from further comment at this time,” Sudderth said.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645

Level II rules violations can result in in-school interventions, in-school Discipline, or short-term suspension/possible long-term suspension with aggravating factors

Rule II–11 Sexting: Students shall not transmit any sexually explicit messages or any nude, partially nude, sexually explicit, or sexually suggestive photographs, video recordings, or other visual depictions of themselves or others. Students are reminded that, in addition to violating this Code of Student Conduct, the transmission of such images or messages to, among, or depicting minors may cause grave psychological or emotional harm and may violate state or federal child pornography laws, even when sent or received consensually. Depending on the circumstances, the transmission of such images or messages may also constitute sexual harassment under Rule II-3 and Policy 4410. Students who receive such images or messages electronically but promptly report them to a teacher or administrator and do not otherwise share or transmit them will not be in violation of this rule, Rule II-3 (Sexual Assault or Harassment), or Rule I.C-12 (Disruptive or Indecent Images, Literature or Illustrations).

Rule II-12 Indecent Exposure/Sexual Behavior: No student shall engage in behavior, whether consensual or non-consensual, which is lewd, overly affectionate, or of a sexual nature.

From the DPS Student Code of Conduct