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Police in Mountain View, California, told Ars on Tuesday that they are set to formally present the results of their months-long investigation of an online nude photo exchange of high school girls. The presentation will go to county prosecutors before the end of the year.
“No arrests or charges filed yet in this case,” Katie Nelson, a spokeswoman for the Mountain View Police Department, told Ars by e-mail. “We are presenting the case to the [district attorney] by year’s end, and they will ultimately decide what direction this goes.”
As has happened in similar cases in other parts of the country for years now, ringleaders could be prosecuted with child pornography, among other felony charges.
Over the weekend, the San Francisco Chronicle broke the story of the investigation. The newspaper reported that the investigation involves a “handful of individuals,” both male and female minors, who are believed to be at the “center of the investigation.” There were photos of at least two girls on a private Dropbox account that was circulated among some students at that school and others as well. The Dropbox account was immediately frozen by police, and no one has since been able to view, access, share, download, or upload anything.
The San Jose Mercury News reported Tuesday that the existence of the photos was a “relatively open secret among students” for months. It wasn’t until Monday that the Mountain View Los Altos school district formally acknowledged the investigation to families.
In a joint letter by the district and the police, the agencies wrote:
MVLA first learned of this incident in August and immediately referred the matter to the Mountain View Police Department. The police department, which has been meticulously investigating this case over the past few months, immediately disabled the Dropbox account when they began their investigation to prevent any further access. Additionally, Mountain View detectives instructed MVLA administrators to maintain confidentiality in order to ensure that no evidence was compromised.
More than a year ago, a high school in nearby San Jose was hit with a similar scandal when a student was found to have been distributing nude photos of students via Instagram.
As Ars reported previously, a 2014 Drexel University survey found that while the majority of teens sext with each other, an even higher percentage was unaware that engaging in such behavior could be prosecuted as child pornography.
The National Conference of State Legislatures began tracking sexting legislation in 2009 and reported that at least 20 states and Guam have enacted bills to address youth sexting.