Preteen Set to Runoff to Tennessee with Online Boyfriend Foiled by AACPS Counselor
This media release came in from Anne Arundel County Police spokesman Justin Mulcahy. We have no further information and no indication that this student attended South County schools. However, we are posting it so that it may be a conversation starter in your family:
On September 6, 2012, an Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ Counselor received information from an anonymous source that a 12-year-old female middle school student was planning to run away from home the next day, September 7, 2012. The information indicated the student had detailed plans to meet her teenaged boyfriend at a location before school where they would depart in a stolen vehicle to the boyfriend’s home in Tennessee. The Counselor reported the information to an Assistant Principal, who in turn, contacted the School Resource Officer.
School personnel and the SRO contacted the student’s guardian to relay the preliminary information they received. They obtained permission to speak with the student, and they received permission to access the child’s social media account and cellular phone data. Based on information uncovered in those accounts, the SRO believed the “boyfriend” was actually an adult male in his twenties who misrepresented his age and knew the female was only 12-years-old. The SRO was appropriately concerned for the child’s safety and immediately contacted a District Detective for additional assistance. Working together, officers obtained the suspect’s identifying information from cellular subscriber records and contacted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for support.
Later the same day, Tennessee officials made contact with the 25-year-old male and confirmed he had been communicating with the 12-year-old female. During the investigation, Tennessee officials located images of child pornography, and their investigation concerning possession of these images is continuing. The Anne Arundel County Police Department will not be providing any further identifying information about this person.
The female student and her family were afforded psychological crisis counseling, and although no crime was committed in Maryland, this dangerous and potentially deadly situation was averted.
Anonymity and safety when reporting at risk-behavior is often cited as an inhibitor for providing information to authorities. It is crucial to cultivate a safe environment for reporting by limiting potential embarrassment, public ridicule and/or retaliation to the degrees legally permissible. The specific case illustrated below is intended as an example of a positive outcome from persons “speaking out” and to protect the privacy of the student and the person who spoke out on her behalf, no information will be released about the school she attends or the School Resource Officer who investigated the case. We request media outlets recognize the extreme sensitivity of this case, respect the privacy of the female student and reporting person, and understand the potential emotional harm that could arise from publically disclosing information identifiable to the young person’s peers.
This case is a prime example of how a potential tragedy can be prevented by students and other persons speaking out and reporting troubling information or observations. The case additionally illustrates the dangers inherent with on-line and electronic communications, and it affirms the need for parental vigilance monitoring children’s cyber and texting activities. Lastly, the quick, safe and effective resolution to this case would not have been possible without the unfailing cooperation, support and professional partnership between the Anne Arundel County Police Department and Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The Anne Arundel County Police Department is extremely proud of the work of the School Resource Unit to keep children safe.