Warren Township High School sexting investigation expands to Grayslake

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On Friday afternoon, police arrested a fourth student they say is involved in a sexting scandal in the north suburbs. (WLS)

The sexting scandal in north suburban Gurnee is expanding beyond the campus of Warren Township High School. On Friday afternoon, police referred a fourth student to face a felony charge of distributing child pornography.

Students at Warren Township High School say the picture in question is of a female student's chest. Eyewitness News talked to her friends with their parents' permission.

"I'm her friend, and she's a nice girl. But I don't know if she regrets it or not. She just keeps saying that she doesn't care, but I don't know if that's really all of it," said Sarah Panos.

Gurnee police said a girl who is a freshman at Grayslake Central High School showed up Friday at the police department with her attorney. She is now facing a felony for distributing child pornography as part of the sexting scandal.

"It really illustrates the fact that once those photos are out there and once they are shared, you lose control over them and they can wind up anywhere," said Cmdr. William Meyer, Gurnee Police Dept.

Three freshman boys at Warren Township were arrested this week, accused of cyberbullying a freshman girl at the school's O'Plaine campus and circulating explicit photos of her via text message. Police have not disclosed how the boys allegedly obtained the explicit photos of the girl.

The unnamed teens were each charged with one count of distribution of child pornography and have been referred to juvenile court. Police said if the boys are found guilty in the future they could be required to register as sex offenders.

This case, police say, must be a lesson to all parents. Sexting can be a crime, even if the picture starts with you and you're a juvenile.

"If you are 17-year-old girl and snap a picture of yourself in a suggestive nude pose and you send it to your boyfriend, you are committing multiple offenses," said Soffer.

ABC 7's legal analyst Gil Soffer warns that's child pornography - and charges - creating, distributing, or possessing - are all felonies. If convicted, defendants could spend time behind bars. He adds there is no guarantee that the felony can be wiped from a juvenile record.

"Ideally, parents will tell their children not to send any images at all because it's a crime. It can even be a felony, and it applies if your 14 years old, or 15 years old. It applies if you take the picture yourself and send it out. It applies under all those circumstances," said Soffer.

"Be aware of what your kids are doing. Be a snoop. Don't be their friend. Look at their friends. Have a tough conversation with them," said Cmdr. Meyer.

Police tells teen that if they receive a sext, "they need to go their parents right away. They need to get law enforcement involved right away. Don't forward it, don't hang onto it. Don't ignore it. Bring it to someone's attention," Cmdr. Meyer said.

Gurnee police say this is an ongoing case that they want to close as soon as possible, but investigators say at least one more student will be arrested.

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