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Two Investigations Underway At Sonora High School

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Sonora, CA – Two investigations, one involving a possible sexual abuse of a minor and the other centering around a child pornography incident, just last week, are underway at Sonora High School.

Tuolumne County Sheriff’s spokesperson, Ashley Boujikian, disclosed that on August 7th, the sheriff’s office got a call regarding possible sexual abuse of a minor for an incident that occurred at an undisclosed time in the past.

“No arrests have been made in relation to the case at this time, and nothing further will be released due to it being an active investigation,” stated Boujikian.

In a letter sent to students’ parents on August 11th from Superintendent Ed Pelfrey, he disclosed that the potential incident involved a district staff member, who, as standard procedure, has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The letter also states, “While we understand that this information may raise concerns, we ask for your patience as we navigate this matter. Further updates will be provided as appropriate, always with the priorities of transparency, the highest level of privacy for everyone involved, and maintaining the integrity of the investigative process.”

The second incident, surrounding child pornography, took place last week. In a letter to parents dated September 13, Pelfrey shared about a situation involving the circulation of explicit content involving minors. The letter by Pelfrey states, “It is important for families to be aware that any student who is in possession of or who shares this or similar videos with others is a criminal offense under California Penal Code 311.11(a). Possession of content would include having the content saved in any form on an electronic device or digital storage device.”

The penal code referred to prohibits a person from knowingly possessing obscene materials depicting a person under the age of 18 engaging in or simulating sexual conduct. Pelfrey also noted in the letter, “The incident that was recorded violates school rules. All students involved will face appropriate consequences for their actions, as per our school’s established guidelines.”

The Sonora Police Department is investigating this case. Regarding its status, spokesperson Thomas Brickley stated, “The only thing that I can release at this time is that staff members of the school are not a part of the investigation.”

Below are both of Superintendent Pelfrey’s entire letters:

Investigation Involving District Staff Member

August 11, 2023

The Sonora Union High School District received a report on Monday, August 7th, regarding a potential incident involving a district staff member. We are working closely with the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department to complete a thorough investigation of the report.

While the involved party has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, it’s important to clarify that this is standard procedure in this type of situation. In situations where there is an employee placed on administrative leave, it does not imply guilt or wrongdoing.

We want to assure you that the safety and well-being of all students and staff are paramount to the district. Our collaboration with the Sheriff’s Department underscores our dedication to addressing this situation with the highest level of professionalism and care. While we understand that this information may raise concerns, we ask for your patience as we navigate this matter.

Further updates will be provided as appropriate, always with the priorities of transparency, the highest level of privacy for everyone involved, and maintaining the integrity of the investigative process.

If you have any questions or information to share regarding this matter, please contact the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Unit at (209) 533-5815.

Sincerely,

Ed Pelfrey

Superintendent

Sonora Union High School District

 

The second letter to parents and guardians:

Working Together to Prevent Inappropriate Content Sharing

September 13, 2023

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We have become aware of a situation involving the circulation of explicit content involving minors. We want to assure you that we are actively collaborating with the Sonora Police Department in a thorough investigation of this matter.

It is important for families to be aware that any student who is in possession of, or who shares this or similar videos with others is a criminal offense under California Penal Code 311.11(a).  Possession of content would include having the content saved in any form on an electronic device, or digital storage device. Sharing of the content would include:

  • Texting it to others
  • Sharing or posting on any social media platform
  • Direct messaging it another on any social media platform
  • Any other means of sharing the content

We encourage parents and guardians to discuss responsible online behavior with your child, the importance of respecting others’ privacy, and the potential consequences of engaging in harmful activities. Your partnership in this is vital in fostering a safe and respectful community.

This is a resource that may be helpful in the discussion: Keeping teens safe on social media: What parents should know to protect their kids

The incident that was recorded violates school rules. All students involved will face appropriate consequences for their actions, as per our school’s established guidelines. Moreover, the district is actively taking steps to evaluate and reinforce preventive measures to avoid such incidents in the future.

Our commitment is to foster a safe and respectful learning environment for all our students and to maintain transparency and open lines of communication as we navigate these challenges together.

Sincerely,

Ed Pelfrey

Superintendent

Sonora Union High School District

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