Yearbook Prank Leads To Arizona Student Being Charged With 69 Counts Of Indecent Exposure

635978141058600788-T268146-03000010459498_GWe have another example of school officials and prosecutors criminalizing a school prank this week to an absurd degree. Authorities in Arizona have charged Hunter Osborn, 19, with 69 counts of indecent exposure when, on a dare from a friend, he exposed himself during a football team picture. No one noticed and it was published in the yearbook. The response is to hit this kid with dozens of criminal counts in a matter that would have previously been dealt with a suspension or inner school sanction.

We have been discussing the use of criminal charges against children for pranks and threats in recent years, including a story this week involving twelve-year-old girls in Florida and a twelve-year-old girl charged over the use of a threatening emoji in Virginia. I have long been critical of the criminalization of American society, particularly at our schools We have seen school pranks charged as crimes in high school (and here).

The matter in Arizona is another chilling example of officials, police, and prosecutors showing no judgment or perspective in dealing with a prank. Mesa Police Department spokesman Steve Berry defended the absurd charges while Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands put the blame on the students. Hollands ignores the draconian response of the school and says that “The district is dismayed by the actions of the students involved in the photograph. Their behavior does not reflect the values of Red Mountain High School or Mesa Public Schools.” Really, how about the “dismay” over treating a prank like it is the equivalent to a serial rape or a homicide? What type of values prompt adults to ruin the life of some dumb kid who commits a prank in a yearbook picture? The draconian values reflected in this response are far more chilling than the juvenile actions of this student.

Osborn did not select the photo for the yearbook, which occurred due to the lack of supervision and review at the school. He merely acted like a classic thoughtless teenager in high school playing a prank.

Months went by and no one noticed as 3000 yearbooks were sold. Did he deserve punishment? Of course. Suspend him or demand payment for the printing of new yearbooks. Instead the school and the police believe that criminal charges are warranted. It sounds like the school was embarrassed by its own failure to see the problem and everyone then decided to crush this student (and ruin his life) over a prank.

The 69 charges represent the number of students who were potentially exposed. Yet, the prank was barely noticeable. The school noted that

While the small size of the photograph as published makes the details difficult to discern, the yearbook has been recalled so the school can make a minor but critical edit for the inappropriate content.

Nevertheless, Osborn was arrested Saturday and later released.

Putting aside the outcome of case, what is most disturbing is that (while students and families are supporting Osbourne), there is little effort to hold the adults at the school and the police department accountable for this ridiculous over-reaction. This is a stupid kid in high school. He was wrong but he is a teenager. We are adults. We are supposed to have a sense of perspective and even understanding. That does not mean that we do not punishment teenagers for moronic acts but we are also supposed to balance our response with understanding and restraint. These teachers and police officials ironically showed the same lack of concern and judgment for their own responses to the prank. They lacked what we would normally expect from mature and reasoned analysis of the situation. First there was the questionable need to refer this matter to the police by the school. Then the police and prosecutors abandoned any reason in piling on charges for this kid.

Osborne deserves to be disciplined at school but so do these school officials, police, and prosecutors who took an embarrassing prank and force it to an absurd and grotesque conclusion.

Kudos: Roger Schechter

39 thoughts on “Yearbook Prank Leads To Arizona Student Being Charged With 69 Counts Of Indecent Exposure”

  1. Let’s see now.
    He was an adult, according to the law.
    He is responsible for his actions.
    Imagine consequences if caught (just a picture) in other more public scenarios.

    Either raise the age of majority or continue to nail adolescents, who can vote, who demonstrate such well informed stunts ….

    Ah wait…newsflash…It’s Trump vs Clinton.

    Forget everything I said about voters.

  2. Are the elements really available for these charges?
    Seems like there are a lot missing for such criminal actions against him.

  3. Maybe he identifies as a stripper and should be celebrated for his bravery.

  4. I can’t see anything. Tacky to do, but a complete overreaction. Looks to me like the boys in front made the space between themselves. Everyone else is shoulder to shoulder. And the cost! Recall books? If they’ve been autographed by fellow students nobody would want to give theirs up. I’ve decided there is a place for stupid people. Unfortunately, they are in our schools, teaching!

  5. Just sounds like a symptom of too much government to me. If people had important things to take care of, this would get dealt with and wrapped up quickly like it should have been, not start a never-ending, spiraling process… like to see how much this costs when it is all said and done.

  6. Christine Hoff Sommers book, The War on Boys explains much of this horsesh!t.

  7. They should charge every high school student with indecent exposure every time they hit the showers after practice, right?

  8. I was on my high school yearbook staff, and there were two photos that as teenagers, we thought were hilarious, so we chose them for publication. They would have been highly embarrassing to the teachers depicted in the photos. But our astute faculty advisor reviewed the yearbook proofs prior to submitting to the printer, and she removed the offending photos. She had been a student newspaper and yearbook advisor for decades and knew what to expect from kids. That’s what was missing in the Arizona situation. Obviously teens need adult supervision, not draconian punishment for the type of pranks that one should expect from youngsters.

  9. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Remember this 2004 Super Bowl?

    Court hears CBS, FCC views of Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl “ wardrobe malfunction” incident

    CBS Corp. lawyer Robert Corn-Revere said the network took many precautions, including choosing Jackson and Justin Timberlake over more provocative performers, reviewing the script, voicing concerns about ad-libbed remarks and applying a 5-second audio delay.

    “I think the precautions CBS took even satisfied the FCC’s standards,” Corn-Revere said.
    FCC lawyer Eric Miller argued that CBS was indifferent to the risk that “a highly sexualized performance” might cross the line.

    Timberlake sang the lyrics, “Gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” and that’s exactly what happened, Miller said.

    CBS should have known ahead of time what it was going to broadcast, the FCC said. The commission noted that Jackson’s choreographer was quoted three days earlier as saying the performance would include “some shocking moments.”

  10. Justice has to be fair and precise. To be fair you must punish the Principal (not a pal), the school board and all who took part in the punishment. Then you must be precise. Turanbout is fair play. The punishment must fit the crime. Since they were centered on the weeny and have no sense, get one of God’s rifles and shoot them each in the weeny and photograph it for posterity. London Bridge has fallen down and moved to Arizona and I know why.

  11. This is the same nonsense that devalues the respect that youth are supposed to have for adults. How can a developing mind adhere to the advice and rules laid down by adults when adults act so insanely stupidly. How many kids ignore the dangers of the really severe drugs because adults bundle them in with pot. A kid tries pot, realizes that it is less harmful than alcohol, and then ignores warnings against trying chemicals, heroin, etc. Authority needs to be based on intelligence, not just force. The school and the police have done more damage here than a thousand criminals. Perhaps a Nader like legal team could obtain some grant money from some of America’s most wealthy and ‘prosecute’ these idiots openly, routinely, and unrelentingly, until it stops.

  12. @ Paul Schulte – I suspect all he needs is one reasonably sane juror.

  13. The really frightening thing is that people who think this way are teaching our children. It’s hopeless.

  14. You hit the nail on the head – the administrators got embarrassed, so they decided to crush the kid.

    Dumb kid – stupid and malevolent administrators; who has committed the greater crime?

    Cops weren’t much better than the administrator – they ought to have exercised some “prosecutorial discretion”.

  15. I have a 70″ screen and I could not see it. I hope this kid takes it to trial. All he needs is about 1/2 the jury to be male.

  16. I saw this news clip yesterday. We’ve lost our way. Speaking up and protesting one can now be charged as a terrorist. (see environmental movement). Now a foolish prank can end up ruining and labeling a kid as a sex-offender? Cripes! I’ve had it. So, now: I would love to know which teachers, staff and school admins will be charged with the manufacture and distribution of child pornography? (A very heinous act) And if a local citizen or purchaser of the yearbook can file those charges? One over-reaction deserves another. By the way, can we have some names and doxx them?

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