SALEM — Obscene photos of underage students circulated at Salem High School last week, but a meeting for parents last night focused on keeping their children safe in a high-tech world.
The sexually explicit photos were sent by students via cell phone before one brought it to the attention of an administrator Wednesday. At least one girl pictured was under 16.
Rockingham County Attorney James Reams spoke to students and parents about child pornography and the consequences of distributing such images, either by cell phone or the Internet.
Reams told them that if these images were posted on the Internet, pedophiles would have access to them. He then told them stories about pedophiles and the crimes they committed.
At least one parent was upset last night that the school district chose to hold the informational meeting and a school assembly where students were told about child pornography. This leads to more rumors than facts, Carol Buckley said.
She said when her son came home, he spoke of a 40-year-old man getting two 15-year-old girls drunk and taking pictures of them — one of the stories Reams told students involving teens from another town.
There are no adults involved in the Salem High case, said Principal William Hagen. He said the intent was to let students know that what they had on their phones was pornography.
School Resource Officer Matt Norcross said from conversations he had with students, it was clear they were not aware of the seriousness of the matter. "The kids downplayed it," he said. "They said, 'It's no big deal — I know that girl.'"
Three or four different pictures were passed around and at least four students still had them on their phones when they talked with police or school administrators, Reams said.
But the county attorney said he is sure the images were sent to many more phones, possibly by using a "reply to all" feature.