Pulaski County school leaders say they're dealing with an unfolding "sexting" controversy in at least three of its schools. Sexting is when people text nude or partially nude pictures of themselves to other people.
WDBJ7 New River Valley reporter Orlando Salinas has confirmed that as many as 40 students from Pulaski County schools are involved. Students told Salinas that some of those risque photographs may have been taken when they were in middle school.
When asked if 14-year-old Pulaski High School freshman Savannah Farley or Brittany Bird had any racy photographs on their cell phones, they both said no.
Parents granted permission to speak with both girls. Farley and Bird said earlier this week students were being called into the office at Pulaski High.
Students say a teacher may have seen a nude or partially nude picture on a student's phone and that set off a chain of events that now involves at least 40 students from three county schools.
Farley, standing outside her friend's home in Pulaski, said students are worried that police or school personnel will find photos or explicit communications on their private cell phones.
"They're pulling up stuff from people from back when they were in middle school and they're in high school now so this can be from two or three or four years ago, and I think that's wrong," Farley said.
Farley said it's not uncommon for classmates to post naked pictures or racy text messages online.
"I know a friend of mine who had a picture and it's been sent out to many people and it's hard to tell who has it," Farley said.
Should anyone be shocked that young people are posting this content online? Farley said "The few that do, they have their pictures on Facebook so that's not a big deal."
Parents said students from Dublin and Pulaski Middle Schools and Pulaski County High School were involved.
Pulaski County School superintendent, Dr. Tom Brewster, said several days ago the school system found out that sexting was going on.
"We've had issues with students sending inappropriate material or photos to one another and we've had issues of finding out from various sources were on their mobile devices or phones," Brewster said.
Brewster said school officials and law enforcement are talking to as many students as they have to. Brewster said he wants to send a strong message.
"We want to reach out to the students and show them that the transmission of these inappropriate materials could come back to haunt them and may even be considered as illegal and a felony."
Brewster said 40 students are in the web right now. An unknown number of student cell phones have been seized by police. Brewster added they are considering their next move.
A number of students’ cell phones have been seized by members of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and school administrators, according to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. According to parents and students, the incident was prompted by an inappropriate picture of a minor on a student’s cell phone.
Pulaski County Public Schools superintendent Thomas Brewster says about 40 students are in the web right now.The school system is considering what its next move might be.
"I think the problem exists where students carry cell phones or mobile devices I think that's usually grades six through 12 is where the focus area would be,” Brewster said. “"We want them to recognize their digital footprint will remain online forever and ever."
No criminal charges have been placed yet, but the sheriff’s office says the investigation is still ongoing. According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, sheriff’s office personnel and school administrators have seized “a number” of cell phones.
“The dangers of using social media to trade or send inappropriate messages or photographs among teens are great and have many potential long term damaging and illegal results. The distribution of these materials can result in one or more felony criminal charges,” the statement from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office says.
WDBJ7 has learned that the schools involved are Dublin Middle School, Pulaski Middle School, and Pulaski County High School.
The sheriff’s office says that no more information will be released because of the circumstances and ages of the participants.
We’ll have more on this story tonight at 6.