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California- Memories might last a lifetime, but officials at one high school want to make sure some don’t.
Students at Big Bear High School have been ordered to return their 2011 yearbooks after a photograph depicting a male student with his hand underneath a female student’s clothing at a school dance somehow managed to be published, officials said Thursday.
The students appear in the background of the photo and “are not the intended focus of the photograph,” said Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. But officials said it still constitutes child pornography under state and federal law.
The students have not been identified, but Bachman said the boy is 17 and the girl is 15.
According to federal law, any visual depiction of a minor “engaging in sexually explicit conduct” can be considered child pornography. Because of this, officials warn, anyone who still has the photograph could face a criminal charge of possession of child pornography.
A statement from Bear Valley Unified School District said the photograph was discovered after yearbooks were handed out last week. Distribution was immediately stopped and a recall issued. Students were asked to bring their yearbooks to the school, where they will be edited to remove the page and then returned.
Most of the students have returned their yearbooks, sheriff’s officials said. The Big Bear sheriff’s station is assisting with collecting the remainder.
District officials said a replacement page had been ordered and would be provided to students.
Officials did not elaborate on how the photo ended up being published, but Bachman said it may have been an innocent oversight.
“The way the photograph has been described, I imagine it would have been fairly easy to simply overlook the two of them in the background of the photo and that’s why it took some time for someone to notice,” Bachman said. “Unfortunately, during that time it ended up in print.”
Bachman said a detective had spoken with both of the students in the photo, and an investigation was ongoing. District and school officials said they also were investigating and would “take appropriate action based on their findings.”