Authorities have uncovered a large sexting ring involving hundreds of explicit photographs of students at a Colorado high school,Sky News reports. An unspecified number of Canon City High School students have been suspended and some could face charges, officials said.
The school’s principal, Bret Meuli, said the students had used an application on their mobile phones hidden by an icon of a calculator. The password-protected app led to a cache of explicit photos of both male and female students – some as young as eighth graders, he said.
Mr Meuli said school administrators had learned and dealt with some isolated cases of sexting in recent years, but those were “nothing, nothing compared to the magnitude of what was going on”.
Authorities believe the majority of the photos were not only taken, but also shared by the students themselves. It could take months to sort the offenders from the victims, District Attorney Thom LeDoux told a news conference.
He said he would charge students only if absolutely necessary, but warned that consent is not a factor when dealing with nude photographs of children under the age of 18. “It doesn’t matter if it was consensual,” Mr LeDoux told reporters. “There is no distinction according to Colorado state statutes.
“The district attorney’s office will make distinctions as we see fit.” Several members of the school’s football team were implicated in the widespread sexting ring, prompting school officials to cancel the team’s season finale on Friday night.
Athletics director Scott Manchester said: “If we’re going to preach character and integrity and doing the right thing when nobody’s looking, we just can’t step on the field and compete – represent our school and our community with that.”
School administrators called a meeting late last week to inform parents about the scandal and ongoing investigation. Mr Meuli told the Denver Post he is concerned about the emotional state of the students involved. He said: “What’s it like for a 14-year-old girl to tell her dad she gave her boyfriend a picture of herself? We don’t want students harming themselves.”