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updated: 4/8/2014 7:59 PM

Police investigating sexting at Barrington middle school

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Police and school officials are investigating sexting at a Barrington middle school after inappropriate images of a student were shared among a small circle of other students via text messages.

District 220 officials sent an email to parents about the sexting on Monday night.

Craig Winkelman, principal of Barrington Middle School-Station Campus, wrote in the email that the matter is under investigation by the Barrington Police Department. He added that the school, students in question and parents are all cooperating with the investigation.

Police said all of the individuals involved are minors.

"It is unknown at this point whether or not the investigation will result in criminal charges. Due to the sensitive nature of the case, the ages of the parties and the fact that it is an active investigation, we are not releasing any further information at this time," the statement said, adding that police will issue an update Friday.

The issue started when a student took an inappropriate photo of himself or herself and sent it to other students, who then redistributed it to another circle of students, said Jeff Arnett, chief communications officer for District 220.

Students were talking about the issue when parents overheard and brought it to the attention of school administrators, he said.

The school was first made aware of the issue April 1, shortly after students returned from spring break, Arnett said.

"When school administrators first viewed the images and realized that the images had not just been shared between two individuals but redistributed to a wider circle of students, then it becomes a more serious matter," Arnett said. "At that point the school realized the gravity of the situation and involved the police."

Police and school officials were able to contact every student involved and put a stop to it before it spread further, he said.

Arnett would not say the grade level or exact number of students involved.

He said this is the first time the district has dealt with a sexting situation at this level and gotten police involved.

"Situations like this underscore the seriousness and risks of sharing things via texting, smartphones and social media," Arnett said. "Students don't realize that this could have long-term repercussions for them. It could affect their reputation or even result in criminal charges."

Arnett said the photos were taken and shared outside school, but the discussion of it created a disturbance at school.

"When students return to school and are talking about what they've seen, viewed or received, then it becomes a disruption to the educational environment," he said.

School administrators have not yet determined consequences for the students involved, but he said those will be decided upon soon.

"They obviously didn't realize the gravity of what they were doing," Arnett said. "Right now the focus is on making sure they get all the support they need."

He said he doesn't expect the sexting to result in any changes for the school's cellphone policy.

"The next step is to step back and reinforce the education we are doing with students and parents about the seriousness of this topic," Arnett said. "Cellphones are a way of life. We just need to always remind students that they should be appropriate. Hopefully, this will elevate the dialogue."

• Daily Herald staff writer Lee Filas contributed to this report.

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