OUTSIDE PHILADELPHIA -- A 13-year-old student at a New Jersey middle school was charged last week with third-degree invasion of privacy for reportedly sending a text message that included an "explicit" photograph of his ex-girlfriend to fellow students.
Investigators from Camden County Prosecutor's Office and Gloucester Township Police Department began investigating allegations of an inappropriate text message circulating among the student body at Ann A. Mullen Middle School in Sicklerville on Oct. 12.
A recorded message by Mullen principal Joanne Acerba sent out as an auto-call last Thursday evening implored parents to check their children's cell phones and computers for an "explicit" image, with the threat of criminal prosecution of any students found to still possess the photo.
Good evening. This is Dr. Acerba, principal of the Ann Mullen Middle School. We are sending you this most urgent message, as requested by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office and the Gloucester Township Police Department, which may have an impact on your son or daughter.
As a result of an investigation by law-enforcement officials, (it has been learned) an inappropriate picture of a student has been forwarded via cell phone text messaging to an undisclosed number of students. This picture reveals an explicit young female. Obviously, this is a serious matter for the district, law enforcement and the parents of students who may have saved this picture on their cell phones and/or transferred it to a computer.
The Camden County Prosecutor's Office has requested that we notify all parents of this issue and demand that this picture be deleted from all cell phones and/or home computers. The prosecutor has allowed 24 hours for all parents to comply with this directive.
Please review the photos on your child's phone and/or home computer, and immediately delete anything you discern as inappropriate. Any student found to continue to possess this picture after 24 hours from this message will be formally charged by the Camden County prosecutor.
We thank you for your attention to this matter, as it is a matter of safety for all of our children. Please continue to communicate any information you hear from students to our school so that we may keep all of our children protected from cyber offenses. Have a good evening.
Gloucester Township Police Deputy Chief David Harkins refused to identify the victim in any way on Wednesday. He would not confirm a report that the victim is the accused 13-year-old student's ex-girlfriend.
Harkins also would not speak to the nature of the text message the student allegedly sent to his peers, only describing the 13-year-old boy's action as "inappropriate texting."
Harkins indicated the police investigation is complete. He noted that no other students have been charged at this point, and that the text message has not resurfaced.
"We have no new reports and no new issues," he said.
In addition to the third-degree invasion of privacy charge, Gloucester Township Police charged the 13-year-old boy with harassment—a disorderly persons offense.
The charges were filed against the 13-year-old boy on Friday, Harkins said.
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