An overseas website sharing nude pictures women, including high-schoolers, is targeting some local high schools.
Users log on to the Anon IB site and can request pictures of a particular student from a specific graduating class.
Farmington Central School District is one of several local districts targeted. The superintendent, John Asplund, tells WMBD the district isn't aware of any students who have fallen victim, but says it's using this as a learning moment for students and you should, too.
"It's something, as a parent, I'm very concerned about, it's something, as an educator, I'm very concerned about, and just as a human being I'm very concerned about." Asplund said.
Farmington is one of 67 Illinois high schools included in the photo trading website. Users can request nude pictures of current and former female students, by name and graduating class.
"Prevent it from happening first so we don't have to do the work later of trying to retract.” Detective James Feehan, part of Peoria Police Department’s Cyber Crime Task Force, explained.
Detective says the website gets 41,000 visits per day. It's operated overseas which makes it difficult to police. He won't comment on the number of local cases the department has seen, but says it's a problem.
"In most of these cases the photograph is provided to a certain individual that trust is broke by that person then sending it to 6 of his friends. Now 6 different people have that photograph and what they do with it from that point you don't know." Detective Feehan said.
Both law enforcement and schools are using this as an opportunity to continue an ongoing conversation with students growing up in this digital era about their footprint online. It's a reminder that a picture isn't just worth a thousand words and the cost is long-lasting.
"We talk to our students on a constant basis about being sure that something that you put on when you're 12, even 13 years old can last even when you're looking for a job in your 20's." Asplund explained.
Police recommend checking your children's devices for any inappropriate behavior.
"It's no different than drugs you need to sit down and have these discussions, open discussions with your children." Detective Feehan said.
Farmington already has a plan in place for any problems that occur online and the Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria says its doors are open should students need it.
"If they have been sexually exploited in this way we're here for them and we want them to come and we'll provide services to care for them." Director, Carol Merna, said.
Bloomington, Canton, East Peoria, Eureka, and Fieldcrest High Schools are also impacted.
“Our school district has been and always will be dedicated to providing a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff. As we prepare our students for the 21st century, we emphasize appropriate digital citizenship and the responsible use of technology. Although we cannot comment on any specific situations regarding current or former students, we are well aware that the inappropriate sharing of images has become a problem for children and schools across the country. We will continue to educate our students on the risks and consequences of sharing digital images, and we encourage them to speak up if they have questions or problems. If anyone feels their images have been shared without their permission, we encourage them to contact their local law enforcement agencies.” Canton Superintendent, Rolf Sivertsen, says, in a statement.
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