In the wake of a sexting scandal that broke out on the campus of a New Jersey high school, police and prosecutors have urged Ridgewood High School students to remove illicit photos and other sexually explicit materials from their electronic devices.
The Ridgewood High School administration said it first caught wind of students exchanging sexually revealing photos of themselves late last week. When school officials launched a preliminary investigation, they found "images of real or simulated sexual acts and photos of naked or semi-naked persons," said school superintendant Daniel Fishbein. Photos, taken outside the school's campus, were being circulated through the smart phone apps, Snapchat and Instagram.
New Jersey Statute 2C:24-4, Endangering the Welfare of Children, "does not differentiate on the age of the actors, but does differentiate on the age of people portrayed in," Chief John Ward of the Ridgewood County Police Department told ABC News.
This means that students who possess or transmit sexually revealing or explicit images could be charged with possession of child pornography.
"We think they don't understand at his point," said Ward. "Our main goal on this whole thing is to stop it in its track and educate these people so they don't make a decision that could affect the rest of their lives.
Ridgewood police have launched an amnesty period for possessing illicit material.
"We are giving the students until 7 a.m. Monday to remove any and all illicit photos on all of their devices. We are really trying to stop this before it moves any further, and give parents the opportunity to talk to their kids," said Ward.
Letters were sent home to the parents of students in grades six through 12, explaining what occurred and the possible consequences for students who do not remove the sexually revealing material.
"I think parents are appreciative that we have brought this to their attention. We got the information out, and we are really concerned with the health and safety of their kids," said Fishbein.
ABC News reached out to the Ridgewood Home and School Board president, who declined to comment on the issue.
"At this point, we are just moving forward and hoping that the notoriety this has gotten will go beyond just Ridgewood and will get parents talking to their kids. Hopefully, this incident will have some positive results, by having parents speaking to their kids," said Ward. "Once it's out there, it's out there, and you don't know what kind of damage it will cause immediately and in the future."