Investigation into inappropriate photo sharing announced to BA parents

BA+parents+received+a+voicemail+last+week+regarding+inappropriate+pictures+of+students+being+shared+online.

Jake Bollinger

BA parents received a voicemail last week regarding inappropriate pictures of students being shared online.

Joe Dorminy, News Editor

A little over a week ago parents of Bellwood-Antis received a message from the school district explaining that district officials had been made aware of social media accounts that were sharing lewd photos of students.  Officials say they were made aware of these inappropriate accounts after a few students reported them to the school.

According to high school principal, Mr. Schreier and middle school principal, Dr. Wagner at least one of these accounts originated in the middle school but eventually high school accounts were discovered as well.

“After we were informed, we performed an investigation to the best of our ability and then state police were contacted,” stated Schreier

Shortly after state police were contacted, Bellwood officials were instructed to send the following message to parents: Good evening, Bellwood-Antis school district officials have been mad aware of accounts on Instagram and Snapchat that may be sharing inappropriate content.  The accounts have versions of the name Bellwood Tea.  The state police have been informed and are monitoring the situation.  If the your son or daughter has information to share about these accounts please contact the school or have them report the information to the appropriate office.

Students sharing inappropriate photos  through texting or social media is nothing new, even at Bellwood-Antis, but the scale of the new accusations is.

We’ve had issues with inappropriate posts on social media before, but usually we know who it is.”

— Dr. Wagner

“Up to this point I have never dealt with something like this where there are multiple people involved,” Mr. Schreier said.

The fact that the creator of the accounts is unknown adds another layer to the problem, Dr. Wagner said.

“We’ve had issues with inappropriate posts on social media before, but usually we know who it is,” said Dr. Wagner.

The issues at Bellwood-Antis aren’t out of the ordinary when compared to schools and communities across America. With the rise of social media, technology, and the ease of access of both, the issue of sending inappropriate images has risen.  According to DoSomething.org, nearly 40% of all teenagers have posted or sent sexually suggestive messages.

These numbers, however, might not come as a shock to anyone between the ages of 14-19.  Sending lewd pictures has become apart of teen culture in the age of Snapchat and Instagram.

One Bellwood-Antis senior high student, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “Sending nudes has become so normalized that just hearing someone tell you they have so-and-so’s nudes doesn’t really surprise anyone at this point.”

Bellwood-Antis Middle School has recognized the problem and has made digital citizenship a focus of its guidance classes.

“Students in grades 5 through 8 participate in lessons each year which teach how to be a good digital citizen and what to do when conflicts or situations arise online,” said Kayla Yearick, the middle school guidance counselor. “We also remind students each year of the Safe2Say app, which allows students to anonymously report things they may be concerned about.”

One might wonder, if these messages and photos are between two people and in private chats and through private messaging, then why is it a problem?  Well, according to DoSomething.org, 17% of sexters share the messages they receive with others, and 55% of those share them with more than one person.

Statistics like those ensure that accounts on social media like the ones in containing nudes from Bellwood students have ample material. As a result, school administrators and parents everywhere are asking the question: what can we do to stop this?

The prospect of sending nudes is becoming more and more ingrained into young life due to exposure to outlets that glorify and normalize sexual activities.  Outlets like this include porn sites, explicit music, and films. Its nearly impossible to stop young people from coming across these outlets.

It comes down to the parents and administrators to teach young people about the dangers of exposing yourself to anyone in a way that can be detrimental to their future.