The District 56 Board of Trustees has enacted two policies, in compliance with state law, designed to prevent sexual extortion.
The law arose from the case of a 17-year-old Rock Hill area man who died by suicide after being extorted over sexual images that he sent to others. Gavin’s Law makes this extortion a felony in South Carolina, under certain circumstances (image of Gavin Guffey, who died, and Brandon Guffey, his dad who introduced the bill as a state legislator, is from Brandon Guffey’s Facebook page). District 56 is acting to put into place two policies, one for students and one for staff, at the direction of the State Department of Education and in compliance with three state laws.
A person convicted of felony sexual extortion (or sextortion) is subject to the following:
Imprisonment for not more than five years for a first offense;
Imprisonment for not more than ten years for a second offense; or
Imprisonment for not more than twenty years for a third or subsequent offense.
Students found to have violated the policy can be expelled, and referred to law enforcement.
Staff found to have violated the policy can be terminated, and referred to law enforcement.
Visitors found to have violated the policy can be referred to law enforcement. Local schools’ policies were approved at the Oct. 23 board meeting.
The first prosecution under this statute, signed into law in August, has occurred with a 14-year-old male in Chapin, Lexington County (his name was not released because he is younger than 18, according to Lexington County authorities). The case involves “doctored nude images associated with a female classmate,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The district’s policy also says District 56 “will not tolerate retaliation” against someone who reports alleged sexual extortion. One of the policy’s definitions says, “Sexual extortion means intentionally and maliciously threatening to release, exhibit, or distribute a private image of another in order to compel or attempt to compel the victim to do any acts of refrain from doing an act against his/her will, with the intent to obtain additional private images or anything of value.” A private image is defined as “an image depicting sexually explicit nudity, sexual activity, or sexual conduct as defined in state law.”
On Aug. 29, the State Department of Education sent to school districts a memo notifying them of the law and its requirements.
A department statement says, “Gavin’s Law (H.3583) is legislation that makes sexual extortion, the act of blackmailing someone using sexually explicit images or videos, a felony offense and an aggravated felony if the victim is a minor, vulnerable adult, or if the victim suffers bodily injury or death directly related to the crime. In 2022, 17-year-old Gavin Guffey was a victim of sexual extortion, resulting in him taking his own life.
“The bill reads in part, ‘Local school districts shall collaborate with the State Department of Education, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the Attorney General’s office, as appropriate, to implement a policy to educate and notify students of the provisions of this act which includes adequate notice to students, parents or guardians, the public, and school personnel of the change in law. The State Department of Education must file a report as to the status of the adoption and implementation of the education policies under this act to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, annually by July first of each year.’”
“With the signing of Gavin’s Law, despicable criminals like the ones responsible for the Guffey family’s tragic loss will now know that they will go to jail for a very long time for preying on our state’s innocent young people,” said Governor Henry McMaster, at the bill signing.
“This is spreading the awareness in the state of South Carolina so that all of our children are aware and all of our parents are aware,” said Representative Brandon Guffey, at the bill signing. “What I’m most impressed by is this community, this state, everyone who has rallied together to get this passed.”
A Governor’s Office statement said, “According to the FBI, over 3,000 minors were victims of sexual extortion schemes in 2022. This bill passed the House 100-0 and Senate 43-0. It went into effect on May 18, 2023.”
An FBI statement says, “Financial sextortion schemes occur in online environments where young people feel most comfortable—using common social media sites, gaming sites, or video chat applications that feel familiar and safe. On these platforms, online predators often use fake female accounts and target minor males between 14 to 17 years old, but the FBI has interviewed victims as young as 10 years old. … Through deception, predators convince the young person to produce an explicit video or photo. Once predators acquire the images, they threaten to release the compromising material unless the victim sends money or gift cards. Often the predators demand payment through a variety of peer-to-peer payment applications. In many cases, however, predators release the images even if payments are made. The shame, fear, and confusion that victims feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse.”
Federal authorities say most schemes originate from Nigeria and Ivory Coast.