What do you call someone who apparently gets his jollies viewing scantily-clad young girls posed provocatively?
Pervert? Deviant? Creep?
I certainly wouldn’t want to call him my kid’s teacher.
But you can’t call him a criminal. That’s the troubling takeaway from a disturbing incident involving Timothy Riggs, 65, a longtime teacher at Trinity Lutheran School in Delray Beach.
Riggs abruptly resigned after police confronted him with allegations that he surfed “child erotica” websites on school computers.
For the uninformed, “child erotica” entails underage kids wearing bathing suits, underwear and other skimpy attire. Some pose on beds with pouty lips and hips thrust out. But they’re not naked or performing sex acts.
So technically, it’s not child pornography.
And it’s not considered obscene.
But in a way, it is. Because what’s more repugnant and morally offensive than an adult seeking out images of kids for apparent sexual gratification? When it’s a decorated church school teacher, someone entrusted with fifth-graders, that makes it even worse.
When it comes to sexual fantasy (or actual sex), is it that difficult for adults to stick with those of legal age? Especially when legal age is 18, which seems plenty young enough for anyone old enough to be an 18-year-old’s father.
The sites Riggs allegedly looked at had names such as “new-little-girls” and “candydoll1.” Some had photos of girls as young as eight, according to the police report. As the father of a 7-year-old, that makes my skin crawl.
But police say they couldn’t charge Riggs with any crime, and legal experts say it would be difficult to write a law in such a way that wouldn’t snag innocuous activities, like parents posting bath or beach photos of their youngsters on social media sites.
The toughest factor: How do you divine intent? Whether it’s someone looking at photos on a computer, or someone you suspect is checking out kids on a playground, if they’re not actually doing something lewd or lascivious, how can you charge them?
And how can you criminalize looking at certain photos and images that fall into a legal gray area? Art, movies and advertising have all featured kids and underage teens in ways that can be deemed sexualized and provocative.
Remember 12-year-old Jodie Foster portraying a prostitute in the movie “Taxi Driver?” Or 15-year-old Brooke Shields posing in tight Calvin Klein jeans, asking “You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” Or 17-year-old Britney Spears featured on a Rolling Stone cover in a bra and shorts, posed on a bed?
And then you have the costume-and-makeup pageant world for little kids (think Jonbenet Ramsey), where some of the outfits are hardly age appropriate.
In a world like ours, where sex sells and is marketed at all ages, how do you draw the line between permissable and criminal when it comes to viewing kids’ images?
I don’t know. I’m just glad Timothy Riggs won’t be in a fifth-grade classroom any more.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun