Baytown police are investigating nude photographs of high school girls in compromising positions displayed on the internet.
The pictures were all posted on the photo sharing app, Instagram. Police learned about the photos Sunday when a female student reported them to a school case manager at Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown.
The mother of one of one of the girls, a 15-year-old student at a Goose Creek ISD school, told Local 2 News that she first discovered photographs of her daughter posted on Instagram back in June after the girl sent them to a 17-year-old male student at Channelview High School. The photos were taken down after the woman contacted the boy's family.
"She made the mistake of sending the picture, but he didn't have consent to put it on the web," said the victim's mom.
But she says the photos reappeared Monday on an Instagram user's account along with nude pictures of 53 other young girls.
She says when she reported it to the Harris Co. Sheriff's office she was told there was nothing they could do.
"They said they couldn't do anything about it because it was a computer crime and it was consensual. Even though she's a minor, they said there's a new law that states if it's consensual, it is not a crime anymore," the mom said.
The Texas Legislature did pass a new sexting bill in the last session, but Sgt. Gary Spurger with the Pct. 4 Harris Co. Constable's High Tech Crime Unit says even having nude photos of underaged girls or boys is still very much a crime.
"The image itself is child pornography; that's a felony to begin with. To post an image of somebody in a sexually explicit manner, that is improper photography and you can go to jail for that as well; that's a state jail felony," Sgt. Spurger said. "There is some confusion about it because of the way the state legislature wrote the law. Unfortunately most agencies in our area aren't equipped to deal with these types of cases, they're still learning."
Alan Bernstein with the Harris Co. Sheriff's Office could not confirm what the woman was told by the deputy who took her complaint, but says the case was referred to the HCSO Sex Crimes Unit for investigation.
Baytown police are just beginning their investigation, but believe photos may include students from schools in the Goose Creek, Channelview, La Porte, and Crosby school districts.
On Wednesday, Goose Creek CISD issued a statement saying:
"The district has been made aware that some Goose Creek CISD students have allegedly engaged in misconduct outside of the school day. Local law enforcement is investigating. Because the alleged misconduct occurred outside of school, the district has limited authority to address such misconduct. however, GCISD is taking all appropriate corrective actions and cooperating with local law enforcement in their investigation. As always, Goose Creek CISD is committed to the well-being of our students and will continue to make efforts to ensure that students understand how to responsibly and safely use social media."
And Crosby ISD sent out a message urging parents to supervise what their children post on social media sites. It reads in part:
"We wanted to take a moment to inform our parents and community of some concerning information. It was reported in the news yesterday that inappropriate pictures of young females were posted on the online photo sharing app, Instagram. This page apparently targets young females in the East Houston area. We have two areas of concern that we are asking that you address with your children. 1) Please talk to your children about the photos that they take and share. What they assume is private could very easily be viewed by people all over the world. 2) Please talk to your children about the seriousness of obtaining and distributing inappropriate photos of minors. Even if they receive the photo from a friend, they could face serious criminal charges and a lifetime label of being a sex offender for possessing and distributing child pornography.
As a school district, we value our partnership with parents and community; therefore, we urge you to take time to talk with your children about this very important issue. As a preventative measure, it is vital to regularly monitor your children's online activities and remind them that all internet use should be in accordance with family values of kindness and respect to self and others. Remember to encourage your children to 'Think before they post and share with care.'"