The offending scene is actually in the background of an otherwise normal high school yearbook picture: a 17-year-old male student with his hands inside the dress of a 15-year-old female student at a school dance. The picture was unknowingly published and distributed in the Big Bear High School yearbook but as soon as the sexually charged image was discovered, the yearbooks were quickly rounded up and the San Bernardino sheriff’s office launched an investigation into a possible sex crime with a minor. Anyone who doesn’t return the unedited yearbook could face a charge of possession of child pornography, although there are only two yearbooks still unaccounted for. The larger question is the uproar on all sides and the desire to closely follow the letter of the law in a sexual abuse case—Big Bear High was obliged to contact the sheriff’s department about the picture and an investigation had to be subsequently launched, but many students at the high school are questioning whether all of this is necessary. When two minors are caught in a seemingly sexual act do authorities have no choice but to act decisively? Is the yearbook picture an example of ordinary teenage hormones or an opportunity to teach these kids a valuable lesson?
Cindy Bachman, public information office with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department