20 students charged in Cape May County sexting investigation

LOWER TWP., N.J. (WPVI) -- Authorities have charged a total of 20 students following a sexting investigation that centered on two schools in Cape May County.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor's office charged 19 juveniles and one 18-year-old student from the Lower Cape May Regional High and Richard M. Teitelman Middle School with invasion of privacy.

Investigators say on April 23rd, a female student told school officials that boys were passing around naked pictures of her friend by text.

During the course of the investigation, authorities seized and analyzed 27 cell phones.

Officials say nude and partially nude photographs of female students were being exchanged between male students through text message and social media.

The investigation continues as technicians attempt to recover deleted information. The prosecutor said on Wednesday that some girls may be facing charges as well, depending on what the investigation turns up.

"If any more are discovered during the investigation, and charges are warranted, we'll charge them as well," Cape May County prosecutor Robert Taylor said.

The prosecutor also said those involved are lucky they're not facing more serious charges.

"They need to know they are potentially committing a crime. The distribution of child pornography is a 2nd degree crime and, if you are over 18, you face serious consequences," Taylor said.

The charges have rocked the school community, but the superintendent says things were back to normal in the schools on Wednesday.

"Their parents have been extremely supportive, law enforcement has been terrific. I do think that, for the most part, we are having a normal school day and life is moving on," said superintendent Christopher Kobik.

The schools already have numerous programs reminding the students that sexting can have serious criminal consequences. That effort is now even more urgent.

"We want the word out to parents and students about the hazards of this behavior," said Kobik.

Action News spoke with a parent of one of the charged boys on Tuesday night. She didn't want to be identified.

"The girls know that the boys trade them and it's kind of a game that the girls want to be involved in," the parent said.

She's not defending her 14-year-old son's alleged actions, but says it was several girls who shared the photos.

"They need to step back and really take a full look at this. The girls are just as responsible as the boys," the parent said.

Those 20 students have been charged, but they were not arrested. Many of their parents have retained attorneys and we're told they are cooperating with the ongoing investigation.
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