Possible 'sexting' case at Hales Franciscan

In a disturbing case of sexting at a Catholic high school on the city's South Side, police say sexually explicit photos of a female were passed around at Hales Franciscan High School in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood.
November 8, 2013 4:18:48 PM PST
In a disturbing case of sexting at a Catholic high school on the city's South Side, police say sexually explicit photos of a female were passed around at Hales Franciscan High School in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood.

School officials confirm late Friday afternoon that they tried to handle the "sexting" incident on their own, but now Chicago Police and the Department of Child and Family Services is involved.

It happened about a month ago.

Police say a sexually explicit photo of a female student here at Hales Franciscan was allegedly circulated electronically to several students.

The staff there tried to handle the matter on their own, the president claiming he never thought it was a criminal act.

"We brought everybody who was involved, in this together, parents, students, we discussed this, and so everybody knew what the lay of the land was and the proper discipline actions were meted out and we thought it was down and over," said Hales Franciscan High School President Jeffrey Gray.

An unknown number of students were disciplined, and are now all back at school.

Steven Jennings is a teacher here and says the girl involved came to him after several boys began to taunt and tease her after the photos were circulated:

Jennings says the female student told him there was another incident on school grounds and she felt like she was physically violated.

"From her perspective she felt uncomfortable sexual contact," Jennings said.

Jennings took her story to the Department of Children and Family Services, and now DCFS and the Chicago Police are involved, but they have not yet been provided with the female student's name.

Jennings says he's not worried about losing his job. He said he needed to stand up for the student and not ignore what happened.

"It is the responsibility of those who have the authority to make sure young people are safe," he said.

Hales Franciscan has long been an all-boys Catholic school until this year. Twelve girls now attend the school and Jennings says the school was never ready for girl students to enroll.

"We don't even have sufficient security for the young ladies," he said.

Parents, many of who recently learned of the allegations, are upset because of the way it was handled by the school.

"Very, very surprised, very shocked and sorry that this is happening," said parent Lauren Pilot.

This case also alarmed the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

"We are alarmed that Chicago Catholic officials never contacted police, prosecutors or the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services about alleged 'sexually explicit photographs' of a girl at a parochial school," SNAP said in a statement released Friday.

School officials say after this incident, rules are now in place to handle all involved.

"We want to help all students so based on this situation we put policies in place that not only discipline the students but support them mentally and physically and emotionally," said Principal Erica Brownfield.

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