Parents in Brick are being warned that their children may face criminal charges if they have any nude photos or videos of their underage classmates saved on their cell phones or computers. The action, officials say, was prompted by a rash of incidents involving such photos or videos that have resulted in police reports.
In a letter issued Friday, Brick schools Superintendent Dr. Walter Uszenski said the Brick Township Police Department has announced an amnesty period for possession of such illicit materials that runs through Tuesday morning at 7 a.m.
“It has come to our attention that some of our Brick Township High School students may be engaging in this improper behavior,” said Uszenski. “This matter is a serious issue that demands a prompt and appropriate response. School authorities are working in conjunction with the Brick Township Police Department to help educate the community about the legal and psychosocial implications of this activity.”
It is a serious crime – an indictable offense – in New Jersey to have nude photos of children under 18 on one’s mobile phone or other device. Under the law, it’s considered possession, and sometimes even the manufacture or distribution, of child pornography, including during scenarios where the photos are being sent or saved by another underage person.
“After this date, any student found to have created, transmitted or possessed an illegal image/movie may be charged with the serious offenses outlined above, and be subject to removal from school,” the letter said.
Specifically, New Jersey covers such charges under its child endangerment law.
The letter was sent to parents of high school students in Brick, and specifically mentioned SnapChat, a smartphone app that allows a user to send a photo to a friend who also has the app. The photo can be set to self-delete, or in some cases, it can be saved. There have been “several police reports” recently which have referenced SnapChat as well as Instagram – another photo sharing app for smartphones – being used to send images of “real or simulated sexual acts and photos of naked or semi-naked persons.”
“Please be assured that I will always take every appropriate action to protect the safety and well- being of our students,” Uszenski wrote. “The amnesty period gives you an opportunity to educate your children and help protect them. We will be working with our staff to continue to address these issues with our students.”