Kitchener-Waterloo

No charges laid in child porn investigation at 4 Waterloo Region schools

Waterloo Regional Police say no charges will be laid as officers wrap up a sweeping child pornography investigation that involved 21 children at three Waterloo Region elementary schools and one high school.

Police seized 20 devices, including phones, tablets, media players and video game systems

Waterloo Regional Police say no charges will be laid as officers wrap up a sweeping child pornography investigation that involved 21 children at three Waterloo Region elementary schools and one high school. 

The incident first came to light about a week ago, according to police, who received a complaint from one of the schools, when one of the teachers became aware of students exchanging nude selfies through social media.

Police spokesman Olaf Heinzel said the decision not to lay charges came after officers interviewed the students involved and it became apparent the children did not realize the consequences of their actions. 

"The children need to understand that inappropriate images can come back to haunt them later on in life because these images don't disappear," he said. "The collective decision between the police and the administrators at the school was that an education component would be more valuable than trying to pursue individual charges." 

The incident comes as controversy rages over the province's new sex-ed curriculum, which will be revamped for the first time since 1998 when its introduced to all provincial schools this fall. 

The new lesson plan seeks to address sex in the online age and teach kids about the risks of sexting as early as grade 4 and teach children the risks of sharing explicit online content. 

The new curriculum has been met with vocal opposition from social conservatives, who argue it's a parent's right to decide how to educate their children about sex. 

Heinzel said police would not comment on the changes to the Ontario sex-ed curriculum, but police do offer a number of their own programs aimed at teaching kids about the dangers of sharing explicit material on the Internet. 

"We went into the schools a few years ago to help kids understand the technology but also the criminal aspect of this, that sharing inappropriate images of young people is considered child pornography under the law," he said.

"Children don't always understand the consequences of their actions," Heinzel said. "You're crossing the line as soon as you hit the 'send' button."  

During the course of their probe, police said investigators seized more than 20 electronic devices from the children, including smart phones, tablets, electronic media players, as well as video game systems and poured through the contents.

Police say they would not identify the schools involved in order to protect the identities of the 21 children involved, who are all between the ages of 11 and 14 years old.