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E-laws; Fort Scott School Resource officer to present program on laws applying to cell phones, Internet, computers and social media

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In an age where people can communicate with the touch of a button, few may think about the consequences. But as with most things, laws do apply.

Fort Scott Police Department School Resource Officer Toby Nighswonger will give a free informational presentation at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Keyhole youth center, 1002 S. Main St., on the responsibilities and liabilities of cell phone possession, as well as laws regarding the use of electronic equipment.

"Four things to cover are Kansas sex statutes that deal with the age range of middle school- and high school-age youth," Nighswonger said. "The last things I'll cover are statutes in regard to electronic equipment, the Internet, cell phones, computers and Facebook when it comes to sex statutes involving criminal use of those things."

Nighswonger said he is giving the presentation, called "Know the Laws and Pass the Knowledge," to inform area youth and adults alike about laws and penalties associated with improper use of electronic devices and equipment.

"A lot of people, especially youth, don't know the laws and how easy they can get a felony-level charge against them at a push of a button," he said.

Felonies that are discussed in the presentation include electronic solicitation of a child and promoting obscenities to a minor.

Nighswonger added that he is working with USD 234 and Bourbon County Attorney Terri Johnson to take a "proactive approach to it.

"We want them to know the laws and pass it on to friends and loved ones," he said.

Nighswonger said he has previously presented the PowerPoint offered "to a large number of the student body" at Fort Scott High School, as well as faculty and staff at USD 234, and it has been "very well-received."

"Every time I give a presentation to kids, they have tons of questions," he said. "Some are in awe at things that are felony crimes. They have no idea ... They don't know the laws and how quickly they can get in trouble, especially in regard to the Internet, social media and cell phones."

USD 234 Superintendent Diane Gross said while she hasn't personally seen Nighswonger's presentation, she supports the purpose behind it.

"The more knowledge we can give to prepare for real-world situations, the better off they will be for situations that may arise," she said. "We want to prepare our students to have the knowledge and wherewithal on how to best utilize a cell phone, instant messaging (etc.)"

"Like Officer Nighswonger said, it's better to be proactive and help kids understand the trouble it can cause and prevent any trouble with inappropriate use of cell phones ... We don't want to see that for any of our students."

Gross said inappropriate texts and use of cell phones and other electronic equipment and social media is a growing concern in school districts statewide.

"I'm not going to say it's not an issue (in U-234), but it hasn't been brought to my attention that it's causing problems in our school district," she said. "I know in various school districts it can present problems."

Gross said she has heard about cases throughout Kansas involving inappropriate communication with electronic devices between students and between teachers or staff members and students.

For more information on the presentation, contact the Keyhole at (620) 223-4700 between 3 and 8 p.m.

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