Eventually a deal was brokered for the three teenagers who were charged. The offence would be amended from the child pornography felony to a gross misdemeanour of telephone harassment. Isaiah and the two girls who had initially forwarded Margarites photo would be eligible for a community service programme that would keep them out of court, and the case could be dismissed.
Those three students would have to create public service material about the hazards of sexting, attend a session with Margarite to talk about what happened and otherwise have no contact with her.
Throughout last spring, on Monday afternoons after school, Eric Fredericks, Isaiahs math teacher, met the three students to help them develop their material. Margarites former friend made a PowerPoint presentation, with slides copied from the Internet.
Isaiah created a two-page brochure, citing studies from the Internet, accompanied by a tumble of adolescent feeling: Not only does it hurt the people that are involved in the pictures you send, it can hurt your family and friends around you, the way they see you, the way you see yourself. The ways they feel about you. Them crying because of your mistakes.
While the case was on its way to resolution, prosecutors and district educators decided to put its aftershock to good use.
In October, principal Kirsten Rae, the police and prosecutors held separate forums about sexting for Laceys teachers, parents and student delegations from the four middle schools. The students then returned to their homerooms to teach classmates what they had learned.
Face to face
One spring evening, the three students who had been disciplined met for a mediation session with Margarite and two facilitators from Community Youth Services. The searing, painful session, which included the students parents and Fredericks, the math teacher, lasted several hours. Everyone was asked to talk about his or her role in the episode.
Then it was Isaiahs turn. He looked Margarite in the eye. He poured his heart out, Fredericks recalled. Isaiah said that he was ashamed of himself, but that most of all, he was sorry he had broken Margarites trust. Then he asked for her understanding and forgiveness. He cried, Fredericks said. I choked up.
The former friend who had forwarded the photo came across as terse and somewhat perfunctory, recalled several people who were there.
One of the last to speak was Margarites father, Dan, an industrial engineer.
I could say it was everyone elses fault, Dan said. But I had a piece of it, too. I learned a big lesson about my lack of involvement in her use of the phone and texting. I trusted her too much.
When you walk out of here tonight, its over, youre done with it, he said, looking around the room. Keep in mind that the only person this will have a lasting impact on, he concluded, is his daughter.
The photo most certainly still exists on cellphones, and perhaps on social networking sites, readily retrievable. She will have to live with this for the rest of her life.
When the police were finished questioning Margarite at Chinook in January 2010, her mother, a property manager, laid down the law. For the time being, no cellphone. No Internet. No TV.
Margarite, used to her fathers indulgence and unfettered access to technology, was furious.
But the punishment insulated Margarite from the wave of reaction that surged online. Although the police and the schools urged parents to delete the image from their childrens phones, Antoinette heard that it had spread to a distant high school within a few days.
The repercussions were inescapable. After a friend took Margarite skating to cheer her up, he was viciously attacked on his MySpace page. Kids jeered, telling him to change schools and go with the whore.
In the school to which Margarite had transferred when she moved back in with her mother, she was recognised within weeks. A boy at the new school had the picture on his cellphone. The girls began to taunt her: Whore. Slut.
Margarite felt depressed. Often she begged to stay home from school.
In January, almost a year to the day when her photo went viral, she decided to transfer back to her old district, where she figured she at least had some friends.
One recent evening in her mothers condominium, Margarite chatted comfortably about her classes, a smile flashing now and then. But when the moment came to recount the events of the winter before, she slipped into her bedroom, shutting the door.
As Antoinette spoke about what had happened, the volume on the television in Margarites room grew louder.
Finally, she emerged. The smell of pizza for supper was irresistible.
What is it like to be at school with her former friend?
Before I switched back, I called her, Margarite said. I wanted to make sure the drama was squashed between us. She said, were we even legally allowed to talk? And I said we should talk, because wed have math together. She apologised again.
What advice would Margarite give anyone thinking of sending such a photo?
She blushed and looked away.
I guess if they are about to send a picture, she replied, laughing nervously, and they have a feeling, like, theyre not sure they should, then dont do it at all. I mean, what are you thinking? Its freaking stupid!