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SALEM, N.H. -- Pictures of naked and seminaked students were circulating at Salem High School through cell phones this week, police and school officials said.
The photos are graphic and show girls in various stages of undress, police said.
"The females in the pictures are believed to be students and minors under the age of 16," according to a statement released by Police Capt. Shawn J. Patten.
A student whose friend was pictured in at least one of the photos was upset enough to approach a school administrator about it Wednesday, Superintendent Michael W. Delahanty said last night.
Officials realized that if one student got the picture, then others might have as well so they notified police.
Officials talked to the person who sent the picture to the informant, as well as others, and by late Wednesday realized at least one student pictured is under 16.
"That's a different standard for criminal consequence," Delahanty said.
That's when the school invited County Attorney James Reams to address students during four assemblies divided among classes.
Each assembly took about 15 to 20 minutes. The students listened to Reams respectfully and seemed to understand the gravity of the issue, Delahanty said.
"He explained to them the severity of the behavior and even though some might have thought it was funny, there are consequences such as (criminal charges for) storing or distributing child pornography," Delahanty said.
Criminal charges could affect students' chances at post-secondary education and follow them the rest of their lives.
It was not immediately clear if any students had been suspended in connection with the photos.
If the photos make it to the Internet, then those pictured may be haunted by them for years to come, officials said.
Only after the assemblies did more students step forward with information about additional pictures.
As many as 10 students were identified for playing some role in the distribution of pictures.
The distribution does not appear to be spiteful. The girls apparently knew the photographs were being taken, Delahanty said.
"It was something that started out where kids didn't consider the consequences and thought it might be funny," he said. "They didn't give forethought which is not unusual for adolescents."
The administration allows students to use cell phones in the school's common areas, such as hallways and the cafeteria as a means of teaching responsibility.
School officials sent letters home with students for parents to explain the situation and announce a meeting to discuss it in the high school auditorium Monday at 7 p.m.
School officials, police and Reams will take part in the meeting with parents and be available to answer questions.
LOWELL SUN
 
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