The consequences that a 16-year-old Indiana high school student faced after taking an inappropriate picture of a teacher and sharing it should serve as a cautionary tale to students who think a dirty joke can’t affect their futures—and that their Snapchat messages are private and fleeting.
Ben Slaton, a junior at Plainfield High School in Plainfield, Indiana, was sitting across from a female teacher on Sept. 28.
The teacher, who was wearing a skirt, was sitting at a desk similar to his, and had both feet on the floor with her legs uncrossed, according to the Indianapolis Star. Slaton decided to snap a picture of her and send it to three friends via Snapchat.
“I thought it would be funny,” he told the Star.
The consequences of that action turned out to be anything but funny—for the teacher, for Slaton, and for his family.
Slaton deleted the photo after taking it, but a friend screengrabbed it from Snapchat—once dubbed the “sexting app” for its ephemeral messages—and shared it with others.
The picture spread like wildfire, and the next day the school’s administration called Slaton into their office.
Police ended up escorting Slaton out of the office and to the Plainfield Police Department. Because the incident involved a juvenile, the department refused to hand over a police report, the Star reported, and the county prosecutor’s office had no charges to file against him.
Slaton was initially expelled from school for three days, but then the superintendent told him he would be expelled for the rest of the semester. The promising football player, who had been a starting quarterback since his freshman year and was being scouted by several Division I schools, was kicked off the football team.
— Purdue FB Report (@purdue_fb_fanly) June 27, 2017
— Allen Trieu (@AllenTrieu) September 20, 2017
He also received retribution from his peers, some of whom started avoiding him, he said. Others were told by their parents not to hang out with him anymore, and one friend even told him he was not welcome at their home.
Rumors snowballed like a game of telephone, and “everybody thought they knew the whole story,” his father, Damon Slaton, told the Star.
To be clear, he doesn’t condone his son’s actions in any way. “He broke my rule by having a cellphone in school. He made another conscious decision to take a picture in class—an inappropriate picture. It was. And then he made the conscious decision to share that picture with three other people.”
The family has also lost friends over Slaton’s lapse of judgment.
— Kyle Neddenriep (@KyleNeddenriep) December 16, 2017
But people have also risen to Slaton’s defense.
Brent Schwanekamp, a former teacher and assistant football coach at Plainfield, said in a November letter in that the act was “out of character” for Slaton, who he had known for 10 years.
“He had not had previous discipline of any magnitude,” he wrote, according to the Star. “It is clear that Ben showed terrible judgement on that day, but he has demonstrated remorse and is hopeful for forgiveness.”
Slaton told the Star he plans to write a letter of apology to the teacher; he was told not to have any contact with her.
He also plans to leave the school, even though he would be eligible to play football again next semester on condition of good behavior. Starting Jan. 3, his parents plan to send him to Danville Community High School, about 10 miles northwest of Plainfield, and they plan to move there as well.
Officially a Danville Warrior ?
— Ben Slaton (@BenSlaton10) December 15, 2017
He doesn’t expect moving to end his problems though.
“No matter where I go, I will still probably hear about it,” he told the Star. “But it will be different—a different community. I think that will help out.”
Slaton said he’s thought long and hard about what he’s done, and while he has a million regrets, looking at the past isn’t going to help him anymore.
“Now I have to look at it like, ‘What am I going to do from it?’” he told the Star.
When asked what he would tell other teens about his experience, he said: “I feel like I would tell them the story and ask them, who uses Snapchat? Have you ever taken something inappropriate or sent it out? I’d use it as an example to help them out.”
Slaton had been scouted by big schools like Purdue and Michigan State for his skill on the football field, but those offers fell away after news of his inappropriate photo broke. However, Indiana State and Illinois State remained interested, and according to 247Sports, and ended up making him offers.