SBI investigating nude pictures of students shared via Instagram

The investigation is on the radar of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.
February 20, 2014 3:55:51 PM PST
The SBI is now involved in the investigation of nude photos of underage Triangle high school students spread on social media websites.

ABC11 first reported on the issue in multiple Wake County high schools Tuesday.

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But now ABC11 has learned it is not just a Wake County schools' issue; Durham and Pitt County investigators are also checking into the illicit and illegal pictures on social media.

The Durham County Sheriff's Office is now investigating two reports of nude photos circulating on Instagram, including those of a 17-year-old girl, and a 14-year-old girl from Sherwood Githens Middle School.

The SBI is also investigating reports from students at half a dozen Wake County high schools.

"Our computer crimes agents are very skilled in technology and can use tracking programs to pinpoint where pictures, other things that have been posted come from," said North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Cooper suggests parents talk to teens about posting and sharing explicit pictures of minors and warning them about the costly consequences, which could land them on the sex offender registry or even in jail.

"It is a crime to post these images of children where other people can see it, where they disseminate it. That's something that people need to know," Cooper said.

Wake Forest police launched an investigation when a mother reported someone uploaded naked pictures of her daughter at 14 or 15 years old.

Search warrants reveal there could be several victims who are students at six Wake County high schools. Now the SBI is stepping in to help investigate.

"We want to encourage people to report it to local law enforcement or the SBI if they are finding compromising pictures of their own children have been posted. The best way to submit a tip or lead to the SBI is to email it to Ops-Center@ncdoj.gov," said Noelle Talley with the N.C. Department of Justice.

Law enforcement is asking parents to talk to their children about the dangers of posing for or posting sexually explicit photos online and warning students about the consequences.

"The dissemination of child pornography is illegal and just because you didn't take the photograph or sell the photograph, if you simply redistribute that you could be held legally responsible," Sherwin said.

Wake County schools denied ABC11's repeated requests for an on-camera interview.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Wake County School Board Chair Christine Kushner told ABC11 they are taking the actions seriously and staff members are working with law enforcement.

Thursday, Durham Public Schools told ABC11 it has reports of students possibly sharing photos and it is doing all it can to cooperate and be proactive in ensuring student's safety.

A Durham mom says her 13-year-old son showed her proof that the scandal has widened. She says she was shocked and appalled that her middle school student was exposed to those images.

"As I'm looking at the phone, I'm like surprised, thinking am I looking at what I think I'm looking at? And you can tell it's a young girl, just nothing on top at all just bare," said Alexia Howard. "I can only imagine what else is on there."

"DPS is partnering with our school resource officers to implement an educational campaign to reiterate the seriousness and potentially life-changing consequences of unsafe behavior online," said spokesperson Chrissy Pearson.

Pitt County schools are also cooperating.

So far, no arrests have been made in the case. Distributing these types of pictures of minors is a felony and could result in up to a year of jail time.

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