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Bishop Guertin 'sexting' ring disheartening says principal and difficult to prosecute say police

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

June 11. 2018 9:32PM


NASHUA — Several Bishop Guertin students have been implicated in a “sexting” ring sharing nude photographs, but no arrests have been made and school administrators anticipate no disciplinary action.

Police say students took nude photographs of themselves and texted them to other students. An investigation began several weeks ago when high school administrators informed police.

“It is several students and several pictures,” said Lt. Robert Page of the Nashua Police Department.

Page said several phones were examined with consent from parents. Once the images were found, Page said police had to determine whether the situation was criminal in nature, whether the images were child pornography under the law and whether the photos were manufactured and published to the internet.

“Obviously we look at every single one of these cases individually,” Page said. “We have to take a look at every image and take all the information in.”

In this case, Page said, there were students taking nude photographs of themselves and trading them with other students.

“All of the parents have been contacted,” he said.

Disseminating child pornography is criminal at both ends of the transaction, Page explained. The juvenile who takes such a photograph and sends it commits a crime, as does anyone who then might later possess it.

Parents were brought into the investigation early and involved throughout, Page said. Such incidents are typically resolved with alternatives to criminal charges, such as warnings, counseling and education, he said.

“But we err on the side of caution. Our primary goal is to ensure the child’s safety,” said Page.

Police were unable to provide an exact number of students involved in the latest Bishop Guertin incident or the total number of photographs that were shared in texts.

Because nude photographs were disseminated, the incident did rise to the level of child pornography, Page said. Nashua police uploaded the nude photographs of Nashua children to a national database of such images so that should they ever be published online they are detected and removed quickly.

Once that is done, any photographs or videos are erased.

“We clear the phones of all images,” Page said.

This work having been completed, police are in the process of returning the devices to the individuals involved.

In a letter Friday to the parents of students implicated in the sexting, Principal Jason Strniste said the situation saddened administrators, parents and students alike.

“While the administration of Bishop Guertin High School feels that strong consequences are warranted in some cases, it is also clear that fair disciplinary response is almost impossible at this point,” he wrote. “The level of involvement of the different students ranged from minimal/inadvertent to extensive.”

Strniste said that privacy considerations, inconsistent accounts of events, time elapsed since some of the incidents and the nature of the images make a school investigation impractical.

“Without all the facts, a disciplinary response is not fair to the students based on the information that we have at this time,” he wrote.

Police say the case defies prosecution.

“We are not foreseeing any arrests being made,” said Page, explaining there is also a jurisdictional issue as some of the students do not reside in New Hampshire.

“In many cases, to arrest everybody is not the best course of action,” explained Page, adding it is important to look at the intent behind the action.

Sexting cases involving middle and high school students have become common.

“We have these investigations on a weekly basis,” Page said.

News of the sexting ring comes two weeks after a former Bishop Guertin student filed suit against the private school alleging she was sexually assaulted by an ex-teacher at the school in 1995.

NashuaNews@unionleader.com


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