BIG BEAR – Prosecutors have yet to determine whether to bring formal charges against a 17-year-old high school student seen groping a female date in a yearbook photo, said a San Bernardino County sheriff’s detective.
Detectives have concluded their investigation into the incident, revealed in a Big Bear High School yearbook photo showing the student reaching up the knee-length dress of a 15-year-old date during the school’s winter formal. The case has been turned over to the county District Attorney’s Office, which is faced with filing misdemeanor or felony charges, or dropping the case altogether.
The scrutinized image appeared in a collage of photographs in the school’s annual yearbook, which has since been recalled due to the nature of the photograph, with some school officials deeming it child pornography.
The photo was brought to the attention of school administrators by some students on June 10, said Det. Jeremiah MacKay. Sheriff’s officials were then notified. Since underage sex is considered a crime, the case falls under child abuse laws that mandate reporting by school and law enforcement personnel.
Based on the placement of the boy’s hand on the girl, there may have been sexual penetration, said MacKay.
“If someone tells us someone is having sex with a minor, it doesn’t matter the age of the suspect. We’re required by law to investigate it,” he said. “As much as we know that teenagers go out and have sex, we can’t just overlook it.”
MacKay said there are still three yearbooks that have yet to be reclaimed because students are out of town.
More than a week earlier, a sheriff’s press release stated that anyone refusing to turn in the books could be charged with possession of child pornography.
“A lieutenant said the photo printed in the yearbook was taken at a dance,” said sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Bachman. “They’re in the background of the photo and are not the intended focus of the photo.
“When the photos were scanned and proofed by an adviser, they must have missed the photo,” she added.
MacKay said no one has been arrested.