NEWVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Police on Monday seized about two dozen cell phones from students at Big Spring High School as part of an investigation into the possible sharing of sexually explicit images of minors, the school district and district attorney’s office said.
Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed told ABC 27 News it’s possible more people are involved.
“We just don’t know the scope of this,” he said.
So far, Freed said police are investigating at least 20 student cell phones.
It’s still early in the investigation, but he said there are concerns over the sharing of images, also called “sexting,” among students.
Big Spring School District assistant superintendent Kevin Roberts wanted to make clear investigators don’t believe anything ties the alleged incidents to the school other than the fact the teenagers are students.
He told ABC 27 the students were not taking or sharing pictures within the school.
Roberts said Newville police came to the campus Monday, shortly before school let out, after rumblings about the investigation first reached them last week.
Officers brought a warrant with them, he said, and confiscated the phones. The school and the students cooperated.
Newville police would not confirm any details except to say the investigation is ongoing.
A student involved sent us a copy of the search warrant. In the probable cause affidavit, an officer wrote that school administrators first contacted police on November 6.
Authorities were interviewing a student at that time. That student admitted to having sexually explicit images of female students on his phone, and he “comprised a list of several male and female high school students that were also in violation of transmitting and disseminating sexually explicit images of other minor female high school students,” the affidavit states.
“The information from the search should reveal dates, times, text messages, images, sending, receiving, and storing of said images,” it reads.
Until recently, the charges related to minors sending those images ranged up to a third-degree felony. That’s no longer the case. In 2012, the state legislature changed the law to relax the penalties.
Now, depending on who sends and receives the pictures and under what circumstances, the charges range from a summary offense (essentially a non-traffic citation) to second-degree misdemeanor for minors.