WATCH: Nine students have been suspended as police investigate the sharing of inappropriate and sexual photographs. It’s a reminder to parents to be aware of what children are up to on digital devices. Ross Lord reports.
HALIFAX – Police in Bridgewater, N.S. are continuing to investigate allegations that students at a local school shared intimate images featuring underage children.
The principal of Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School called police last week after discovering students were sharing the images via cellphones and other devices.
Police have confirmed the incident involves students aged 13 to 17, and say students have told them the images depict local boys and girls.
Several phones and devices have been seized. but police must wait for search warrants before accessing them as part of their investigation.
Bridgewater Police Chief John Collyer said investigators have not seen the images yet.
He said if charges are laid in the case, if would be the first time police have used new provincial legislation passed after Rehtaeh Parsons’s death that aims to stop people from sharing intimate images without consent.
“It’s not illegal for somebody to share an intimate image with their partner,” he said. “However, the moment we disseminate that to other people without the other party’s knowledge or consent, then it becomes an offence.”
The school has launched its own investigation and nine students had been suspended as of Wednesday.
A notice posted on the school’s website says the administration found out on May 12 about the possible existence of “images involving students on some electronic devices.”
WATCH: People in the community of Bridgewater continue to deal with revelations that students at a local junior and senior high school were allegedly sharing intimate images of other students. Natasha Pace reports.
The school says it has communicated directly with the families of students whose names are linked to its own investigation.
Grade 12 student Doug Ozon said the images were shared through two Dropbox accounts and were pornographic in nature. He said he believed as many as 47 girls had their photos shared.
Representatives from the South Shore Regional School Board have declined interview requests from Global News.
The Bridgewater Police Service says its investigation is expected to take weeks.
Teaching kids internet safety is key: parents
Parent David Slauenwhite said he is not surprised by the news of the investigation.
“It just re-establishes that we need to talk to kids more about internet safety and when it’s appropriate to use their devices,” he said.
He said the students who engage in sharing intimate images don’t understand the consequences of their actions.
“Parents have to…explain to them and be more open about it then they have been for the last couple of generations.”
Hillary Dionna said parents need to take a proactive approach.
“We check how our kids are communicating with each other and if we see anything that might be a little bit inappropriate, we explain why it’s inappropriate and why they shouldn’t do that,” she said.
– With files from Natasha Pace, Global News