COLORADO SPRINGS — Members of the Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested a teacher for Harrison D2's Monterey Elementary School this morning on charges of internet sexual exploitation of a child.
According to Colorado Springs Police, 34-Joshua Silverthorn was arrested at his home while a search warrant was also served at the school.
The information for the arrest originated with the Durango Police Department who conducted a 2-month long undercover operation using the websites to identify people allegedly seeking sex with children.
According to a LinkedIn profile for Silverthorn, he's worked as a physical education teacher for Harrison D2 since 2017. That same profile also shows prior work experience for an elementary school in Tuscon, Arizona.
Harrison D2 released the following statement this morning following Silverthorn's arrest:
Harrison School District Two immediately placed Mr. Silverthorn on administrative leave, and as this is a personnel matter, it will be handled per district policy and state law.
Upon being hired, a full background check, including a Colorado Bureau of Investigation review and fingerprint submission to the Federal Bureau of Investigation was conducted. The background checks for Mr. Silverthorn did not indicate any prior inappropriate behavior or criminal activity.
Harrison School District Two and Monterey Elementary will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement in this matter.
The Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force always encouraged parents to take a more active role in what their kids are doing online.
Members use online tools and social media to identify potential cases of child pornography and child luring.
Many of the cases are flagged by the big tech companies who then relay the information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The NCMEC then distributes those leads to the Colorado Springs Police Department which heads the ICAC Task Force in Colorado.
The program was started February 1, 1999, less than six months after Google had launched. It was a time before smartphones and tablets.
“Back then, it was a lot smaller internet, and I don’t think anyone knew how big it was going to be today,” Sgt. Jason Ledbetter of the CSPD told News5 in 2019.
Today, families are more connected to digital devices than ever before. That easy access to the cyber world also correlates with the growth in child exploitation cases. The most common cases involve teenagers and pre-teens who shared naked images of themselves online, a crime known as self-production of child pornography.
“A lot of times when we’re doing presentations for prevention I tell people you don’t know your photo’s fate once you send something,” Ledbetter said. “And once it’s out of your hands, you don’t have a choice anymore and it can be shared exponentially.”
He says parents need to know who their kids are communicating with online now more than ever.
“The friends that your kids have on social media, or online, should be the friends they have in person, someone they know personally and that you approve of as a parent,” Ledbetter said.
He discourages young people from sharing any images of themselves with someone online that they haven’t met in person. Another big red flag is if someone online asks your child to communicate with on a different application.
Ledbetter said that child should notify their parent or a trusted adult right away.
For more resources on internet safety, visit the Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and NetSmartz.org.