Bloomington Police uncover 20 victims in high school sexting case
Police are investigating a sexting scandal involving students at a central Indiana high school.
What started with one student at Bloomington High School North has spread to 20 kids exchanging nude photos of themselves and others.
Lifelong lessons of embarrassment and humiliation are being learned at the high school, where police uncovered 20 cases of cell phone sexting and what is legally considered dissemination of child pornography.
"It was a much bigger problem than we had anticipated. We have identified nearly 20 people who have (been) victimized as a result of this. And in many cases, what happened was a photo that was shared with someone they thought they could trust," explained Bloomington Police Capt. Joe Qualters.
The text messages included girls and boys, some as young as 14 years old.
"As disturbing as it may be, it not only involves high school students, but even dips down into the middle school," revealed Qualters.
"Oh, if it happened to her, I'd hunt them down," said Jean Burdine, a Bloomington parent who was picking up her daughter Friday afternoon.
Burdine heard about phones confiscated at Bloomington North just like they were weeks ago at Avon High School when similar sexting concerns came to light.
"Hopefully, it gets stopped. Kids have to learn that it's not okay to post naked pictures. Something has to be done, I mean, it's porn. It's a crime," said Burdine in disbelief.
"Flirting electronically with someone else is how I would describe their attitude towards it," said Bloomington North Principal Jeff Henderson.
According to Henderson, the first case of what he calls "electronic flirting" came to light when a female student reported her ex-boyfriend was sharing the nude photo she texted him prior to their break-up.
"That investigation led us to uncover a significantly larger number of images that had been circulated among students. So we immediately contacted the Bloomington Police Department," he said.
While Henderson says none of the photos were taken at school, an undisclosed number of students have been disciplined for using the photos for intimidation and bullying.
"Not only is it illegal, but also it can have long-term ramifications," cautioned Qualters.
While Bloomington Police say there will likely be no charges, there's plenty of embarrassment to go around. The school says it will continue to try to educate students about the danger of "flirting electronically."
Classes on Internet safety are already included in the health curriculum at Bloomington North. Henderson told Eyewitness News the school will have a school-wide educational event with experts from Indiana University.
Internet and mobile safety experts say it's important parents understand their child's digital world.
First, they say to make sure you're familiar with the numbers on your child's cell phone. Be suspicious if your kids hide their phones or computers around you, and be familiar with all the functions your child uses on their phone including social media, chat sites and gaming systems.