Sexting ‘Contest’ Scandal Sweeps High School

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A large-scale sexting scandal has taken center stage at one high school — forcing officials to cancel the football team’s last game of the season and putting some kids at risk of felony charges.

Earlier this week, officials at Canon City High School in Colorado learned that a large number of students — possibly in the hundreds — have been collecting and trading nude photos of themselves. “It got to the point of maybe a little bit of a contest, see who could collect the most,“ George Walsh, superintendent of Canon City Schools, told KOAA TV.

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School administrators learned of the photos on Monday, after “a courageous young individual went to an adult in our school and said they were being asked to do something they were uncomfortable with,” Walsh tells Yahoo Parenting. “Another courageous individual offered a tip on the Safe2Tell website that told us this was more than an isolated incident.” Safe2Tell is a Colorado website that encourages students to anonymously report “threatening behaviors or activities endangering themselves or someone they know.”

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A large-scale sexting scandal broke out at Canon City High School in Colorado this week. (Photo: Twitter/Canon City High School)

By midmorning on Tuesday, Walsh says the school had investigated enough to turn evidence over to the police. “In these cases, a school becomes a required reporter,” Walsh says. “These are class 3 felonies in Colorado — a child under 18 taking a nude photo and sharing it, that becomes possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography — so it’s not our job as a school system to sort all that out. That’s for law enforcement.”

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Walsh says the school collected evidence after sorting through student cellphones that were voluntarily turned over. “In 2015, I imagine not a day goes by where at least one school is not dealing with a situation in which minors have snapped photos of themselves in compromising positions,” he says. “But this wasn’t isolated among a couple of kids; it was large-scale. Evidence confiscated at the school level showed hundreds of photos and who knows how many kids in the photographs — I guess there could have been doubles — but it was a lot.”

The school’s first priority, Walsh says, is making sure that affected students get the help they need. But, still, some disciplinary decision, especially regarding this weekend’s football game, needed to be taken immediately. “There were players on the football team involved, and it was clear that some of the activity took place on campus or while engaged in a school activity, so we chose to deal with it as a school matter,” he says. “It came down to putting the task to the coach. We said, ‘We’ll give you 24 hours. If you feel you can field a team that consists of only kids who didn’t participate in this activity, we’ll let you play.’ But he and his staff returned to us and said, ‘We don’t feel like we can meet your request,’ so all of us together agreed that what is most important is the education of our kids, and we are not going to take the field.” The cancellation was especially unfortunate, Walsh says, because it was the last game of the regular season, and had the Canon City High School team won, it would have tied for the league championship and likely gone to the state playoffs.

Still, Walsh says the football game aspect of this scandal is just an aside. “We have a more important task,” he says. “That is to make sure that whatever victims are out there get support and that the kids who were involved are dealt with in a way that makes sense.”

Top photo: Getty Images

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