Snapchat posts of students spurs investigation

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BELOIT - Officials from the School District of Beloit and the Beloit Turner School District are working with police to determine the identity of a poster of inappropriate images and video footage of students.

The Daily News has obtained a copy of a letter to Turner School District families which was sent out Thursday morning stating the district is aware of a Snapchat user who has posted compromising videos and photos of young people. The letter said it was imperative to notify families. The two user names of immediate concern are "beloitfacts" and "beloit.facts101."

School District of Beloit Turner Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said the situation didn't occur at school. Concerns were brought to district officials, who in-turn notified police.

"We do not have the ability or access to investigate matters of this nature, but the police do," McCarthy said.

As a school district, McCarthy said officials felt this was information that should be shared with all parents as these were actions that were occurring at home or away from school.

"As students were being interviewed there were many generalized statements such as, 'there are all kinds of students involved in the Beloit area.' Parents, or school officials for that matter, would clearly not know this unless they were made aware," McCarthy said. "Given the nature of the actions described, it was pretty clear parents were likely not aware. When the school can work together with parents to help them talk about these matters with their own children, we should share the concern and allow the parents to work with their child in order to assure their safety."

School District of Beloit Interim Superintendent Tony Bosco said the district hasn't sent a letter out to parents yet but are looking into the situation.

"It's been an ongoing investigation at the high school since Thursday. Police and school staff are interviewing students," Bosco said. "We've gotten information that there is a social media situation where inappropriate content is being posted."

Bosco said the images were not taken on any school property. He said it's unknown who is posting the content. The poster could be a student or adult.

"The Beloit Police Department and school district are doing their absolute best to see if they can trace it back to a source," Bosco said. "It's an ongoing investigation. Authorities are involved and administrators are working on it as well. Whoever is perpetrating this will be dealt with."

The Town of Beloit Police Department is investigating the situation as well. Lt. LeAnn Jones said authorities were made aware of the situation on Wednesday and have been working to preserve all the material from the Snapchat accounts to help identify victims and perpetrators. She said officers will reach out to Turner officials on Monday to see if any victims or perpetrators have been identified.

Bosco said the School District of Beloit will be responsive to students impacted, helping with counseling and emotional support.

"We work with students who experience trauma. We are prepared to provide counseling and any support they need," Bosco said.

In the letter sent to families, Turner officials recommend students and families who have social media concerns reach out to counselors and administrators in the district.

McCarthy encouraged parents to be more diligent with their children's social media activity.

"Many parents trust their own child would not be doing things like this, but the reality is unless they are checking their children's social media activity on a regular basis they may not know," McCarthy said. "As adults, we simply need to be more diligent in reviewing our children's social media accounts. As parents, we typically own a child's phone or at the very least can be in charge of their actions. Children need to understand this as well. They do not have a right to a phone and to simply access content in any way they see fit. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who will take advantage of children and the magnitude of these actions may not be realized until after the fact."

Beloit Director of Strategic Communication Sarah Millard said on Friday she and Beloit police won't likely have information until Monday as some key staff are off for the holiday.

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