A felony investigation has been launched after around 100 students at a Colorado high school exchanged nude photos of themselves, in some cases using “ghost apps” to hide the photos from their parents.
The police investigation is ongoing at Cañon City High School, around 115 miles south of Denver, with the focus being put on whether any underage students had been pushed into participating or if any adults had been involved. The children in the photos are believed to be students of the high school, along with some eighth-graders from the middle school, writes Kassondra Cloos for The New York Times.
“It has come to the attention of the Cañon City School District that a number of our students have engaged in behavior where they take and pass along pictures of themselves that expose private parts of their bodies or their undergarments,” school officials said in a statement on Facebook.
According to the Cañon City School District, the charge could result in a Class 3 felony if students were found to have voluntarily taken photos of themselves showing a naked body part, having then sent that photo to another person, or having received such a photo from another person.
Cañon City Police Chief Paul D. Schultz said 3 phones are already in the possession of investigators, one of which has several hundred photos on it, reports Shellie Nelson for WQAD.
Some of the photos in question were found to have been taken while on school grounds, reports Schools Superintendent George Welsh. A number of students have already been suspended as a result, although the total number has not been released yet. An upcoming football game also had to be forfeited as a result of the investigation because a “large number” of football players were implicated in the scandal.
A photo vault app was found to have been used by the students to hide the photos on their phone. The app appears on the phone as a calculator or media player. When the app is opened, a certain button must be held down for a password screen to pop up. Once the password has been entered, the hidden photos begin to show. In addition, users can choose for certain photos to not remain on the device.
Fremont County District Attorney Thom LeDoux is making a push for students to voluntarily hand over their phones containing the nude photos. Any students convicted could be required to register as a sex offender. However, LeDoux said they will not take that route unless necessary.
The investigation began earlier last week when an anonymous tip was left on Colorado’s Safe2Tell hotline, which is used as a safe way for youth to report threatening behavior.
A plan is now being developed by the district to educate students on how to use their technological devices in an ethical and legal way.