BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Interim superintendent Cheryl Dyer sent a letter to parents of students at Bridgewater-Raritan High School and Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School Tuesday concerning students in the district possessing nude photos of classmates.
In the letter, Dyer said digital photos have been found on students' cell phones and social media pages. Students, she said, took photos of themselves and shared them electronically.
According to the letter, Dyer is working with Bridgewater Township Police Chief Manny Caravela and Raritan Police Chief Kenneth McCormick, and is offering to allow the school and police department to work with the students without the filing of charges (because this is considered child pornography) only through Wednesday.
But, Dyer said in the letter, as of Thursday, any students involved will be subject to prosecution by the law.
In addition, Dyer said in the letter, she has directed principals to implement a minimum of a five-day suspension for infractions, effective Thursday.
Below is the letter in its entirety:
"Dear Parent/Guardian of BRHS and BRMS students,
It has come to my attention that this week some of the students in our district have knowingly possessed and brought to school nude photos of classmates. The digital photos have been found on students’ cell phones and on their social media pages. Students took photos of themselves and shared them electronically.
As you can imagine the situation has created a host of unfortunate consequences for everyone involved. The educational environment has been disrupted. Students are dealing with the consequences of their actions. Parents, administrators, and counselors are all working diligently trying to take corrective action and educate students about the ramifications of this behavior. Local law enforcement is involved because the photos represent child pornography.
I have been in communication with Chief Manuel Caravela of the Bridgewater Township Police Department and Chief Kenneth McCormick of the Raritan Police Department, who have in turn reviewed our situation with the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. An arrangement has been made at this time to allow the school and local police department to collaborate and work with the students and families involved to handle the situation without the filing of any criminal charges. Please be advised that this arrangement for amnesty is short term through Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Effective Thursday, May 29, 2014any students involved in the behaviors described above will be subject to the application of the law.
The school district will be working to counsel and if appropriate, discipline the students who have been involved in this situation. Our goal is that this sort of behavior never occurs in our school district. In an effort to make it clear how serious the creation, possession and distribution of this sort of content is, I am directing all of the principals to institute a minimum disciplinary consequences of a 5-day suspension for such infractions. The minimum consequence will be effective beginningThursday, May 29, 2014 for ANY student who knowingly possesses child pornography at school or who creates and/or distributes such content in a way that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students. Students also risk losing the right to participate in end of school activities such as trips, prom and possibly graduation ceremonies.
I am making a plea to you for your help. Please talk to your child about the serious and possibly long term social, emotional, and legal ramifications that can accompany situations like we are dealing with right now. Reinforce with your child that once they distribute digital content and it gets to the World Wide Web it is impossible to eradicate. Please tell your child that under no circumstances should they be taking nude photos of themselves. Please tell your child that if someone asks them to create such a photo they should say “no” and report the person to a trusted adult. Please tell your child if they receive inappropriate photos they should immediately delete the photo or immediately go to the police station (or school office if at school) with their phone – they should NOT distribute the photo.
Finally, please review with your child all of the digital photos they may have posted or saved on their cell phone, their social media accounts or on other electronic hardware or software. DELETE ALL INAPPROPRIATE CONTENT.
As always, I appreciate your support in helping us to resolve this immediate situation and in educating your child about this crucial topic.