Were nude photos of North Penn students shared online?

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North Penn High School is concerned over claims that nude photos of its female students have been shared online. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer

Concerned students at a Lansdale high school met with administrators Monday as law enforcement officials investigated claims that nude photos of female students had been shared online.

Teens at North Penn High School said the photos that dozens of girls sent to boys had been uploaded onto the file-sharing site DropBox, and a link to the account had been distributed among students.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said her office learned about the photos in the last two weeks. She said investigators will conduct a forensic examination of computers and interview those involved. Ferman declined to say whether a crime may have been committed, but she noted that sharing photos of naked teenagers can be a felony.

After news of the images and police inquiry spread over the weekend, students had planned a walkout from the 3,500-student school to show support for the girls whose photos had been shared. Instead, hundreds of students and staff met in the auditorium with Principal Burt Hynes.

Administrators answered their questions and discussed ways to better teach online safety to middle and high school students, North Penn officials said in a statement.

Still, some were concerned that nothing would be done about the photos.

Allison Garber, 17, a North Penn senior, said she was disheartened that many students mocked the meeting with administrators and placed blame on the girls whose photos were shared.

"People are talking about it like it's [the girls'] fault rather than the guys," Garber said. "Which is kind of awful."

According to Garber, the file was organized into about 15 folders with girls' names.

Another folder, titled "miscellaneous," had dozens more photos and videos, she said. Garber is not among the teens whose photos had been shared, she said, but she and others are organizing a "day of silence" on Wednesday, encouraging their classmates to stay silent for the day and dress in black to show support for the girls who are.

Gabrielle Hernandez, 18, a senior, said rumors about the photo sharing had disrupted classes since Thursday. She said that discussions with administrators Monday were productive and that she hopes the school will continue taking steps to support her classmates whose photos were posted.

"Regardless of what someone's morals are on this sort of offense, they did not consent to taking these photos and putting them on DropBox," Hernandez said. "Their consent went as far as sending it to a boyfriend."

Another 18-year-old female student said: "A lot of girls just feel humiliated and vulnerable and that their privacy was broken."

School officials said they are cooperating with police.

"There won't be any instant answers to the questions that we may have," Hynes said. "I continue to urge anyone with knowledge that would contribute to the investigation of such activity to directly contact his or her local police department."

In a message posted on the school's website, North Penn Superintendent Curtis Dietrich called the alleged sharing of inappropriate photos and videos "of great concern."

Ferman said the consequences "can be extraordinary" when teenagers share nude photos.

"This is a topic that has been the subject of extensive discussion in recent years," she said. "We see teenagers, often young adults, who really live their lives online and they have no sense of boundaries and discretion when it comes to what they will document and share."

 


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