COLORADO (CNN) — Students at a Colorado high school exchanged naked photos of themselves, prompting a felony investigation by police and the forfeiture of a football game because a large number of players have been implicated in the sexting scandal, officials said.
The controversy has roiled the Cañon City High School, about 115 miles south of Denver, and police are also investigating if any underage students were coerced into the lewd photography and whether any adults were involved, the school said in a statement.
“It has come to the attention of the Cañon City School District that a number of our students have engaged in behavior where they take and pass along pictures of themselves that expose private parts of their bodies or their undergarments,” school officials said in a statement on Facebook.
Charges could be serious and could amount to a class 3 felony if students took “a picture of themselves showing a naked private body part and sent it to another person, have received such a picture and forwarded it to another person, or have received such a picture and retained possession of it over time,” the Cañon City School District said.
“We will be identifying people in the images,” he added. “It’s early in the investigation.”
Already, “a large number” of high school football players have been “implicated” in the accusations, leading coaches and administrators to conclude that “stepping on the field to play this weekend to represent the Cañon City community is just not an option,” the school statement said.
“We realize this decision will unfairly penalize many of our fine young men who clearly did not participate in these actions,” the school district said.
The police investigation began this past week after anonymous tipsters called Colorado’s Safe2Tell hotline, which allows youths to report threatening behavior in a way that keeps them anonymous and safe, school officials said. The district also received students’ reports about the sexting.
The district is now developing a plan to further educate students on “the 21st Century skill that all citizens use technology in a legal and ethical fashion,” officials said.
Parents were encouraged to talk directly with their children about sexting, school officials said.
“No matter what the police investigation uncovers the Cañon City School District will hold its students accountable for their actions as outlined in district policies relating to cyber bullying, sexual harassment, and irresponsible behavior,” the district said.
Recent studies shows that teens sending nude photos via text — or sexting — is more common than parents might realize or want to admit.