UPDATE: for students to delete the images or face child porn charges.
Parents of Eisenhower Middle schoolers were greeted to an alarming email blast from Principal Stephen Raimo Tuesday morning about a that's now being investigated by the Wyckoff Police Department.
The letter from Raimo read in part, "Unfortunately, I need to inform you that it has come to our attention that some students at Eisenhower have recently sent or received inappropriate images of a sexual nature via cell phone. We are all deeply concerned about the impact this has on the children, and that is why we feel it is necessary to inform all parents/guardians to the extent possible that this has happened."
Raimo told Patch school officials became aware of the sexting on Monday. "It came to our attention in general way that some children were upset with one another. In our discussions it became clear some kids believed inappropriate messages were being sent. Some said they had seen images that were upsetting," Raimo said. "We investigated and found out it was true that the images were being transmitted."
Raimo said approximately five children were involved in the image exchange between cell phones and that the images themselves were "sexual in nature and highly inappropriate."
The sexting incident, Raimo said, is the first the school has had since a similar incident in 2008. Raimo said he would be speaking to the 7th and 8th grade classes today to tell them directly to delete any inappropriate images they may have received immediately.
"Between four to five children that we're aware of were directly exposed to the situation, but kids being kids I’m sure many more probably know about this, so as principal it's my job to alert them if they're aware of this or if they’ve received it they are to delete it," Raimo said. "This is one of the challenges that parents and school officials face with technology when it's inappropriately used...that it can spread so quickly."
Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox said no criminal charges would be filed against students found to be in possession of those images yet, but that would change as of Thursday. "Anyone with those images on their phones have until Thursday to get rid of them or they will be arrested and charged. We're talking child pornography charges," Fox said. "It's serious and you don't want to go there."
Fox added, "It's an unfortunate part of the tech age we live in...the immediate transfer of information. Kids in middle school and high school can do stupid things and this is a stupid thing to be doing."
Eisenhower PTO president Corrin Scher has a 7th grader enrolled at the school and said while concerned about the incident itself, she was pleased with the swift response from school officials.
"I think they're doing everything they can to help the kids through something that's unfortunate. I'd also encourage parents to use this as an opportunity to talk to kids about how their immediate behavior could have lasting effects," she said. "It's unfortunate that this is prevalent in society today and it's clear we need to talk to kids more now as they get older, not less."
Fox said he expects parents to be waiting by the door when their children return home. "My hope is parents throughout town, when their kids come home from school, they’ll say 'I want to see your cell phone. I want to see what pictures you have'. Hopefully this will be enough of a learning experience for kids to understand that they just can’t do this."