Some local middle school students have been caught up in sexting scandal. Several Lake Placid Middle schoolers are under investigation for taking or sharing sexual images.
The images are so graphic, it prompted the principal to hold an emergency meeting with parents Monday night about the dangers of smartphones. It's been a wake-up call for parents to know what's on their children's cell phone.
"My daughter came home mortified and said, ‘Mom, there's something wrong going on in the school,' " says mother Vivianne Melendez.
Sheriff Susan Benton warns parents that the naked selfies and sex act video verge on child pornography. "It spreads so rapidly, it's like wildfire, they can barely be stopped," says Benton.
Principal Chris Doty warns that the graphic pictures the middle school students are taking can never really be deleted, not to mention sexting is against the law.
"There is a very illicit video that wasn't good and some pictures," says Doty.
Doty tells 10News WTSP that the sexually explicit shots surfaced on several students' smartphones earlier this month at Lake Placid Middle School.
"When you put a smartphone in somebody's hands, it doesn't automatically make them smart," Doty tells parents.
It certainly shocks parents of the sixth- through eighth-graders, who packed the Monday night meeting to learn more.
"You can't believe that," says mother Esmeralda Lopez.
"It's just sad that it's something that's going on," says Melendez.
Doty says 11 students have been disciplined for taking or sharing the naked pictures or the sex act on video. Right now, the sheriff says investigators are scouring nine seized phones. Benton says sexting is illegal and students could face a fine or even a felony.
"Putting photographs, videos of themselves in compromising positions out there can be a very serious crime," says Benton.
The Special Victims Unit is investigating if anyone caught on camera is a victim of child pornography or sexual exploitation.
"U.S. 27 being the corridor for human trafficking in the state of Florida, those pictures are dangerous for kids," says Doty.
During the investigation, the school discovered 20 other students have taken racy pictures and shared them off campus. The school alerted those parents and the kids aren't in trouble, at least with the district.
It is sparking some serious conversations about sexting. "She knows not to do it. You have to have self-confidence in your body, not to go ahead and do that. There's no need to do it. It's something very private," says Melendez.
Stats show that 39 percent of teenagers admit to sexting.
The school handed out a "Parent's Guide to Sexting" with talking points for parents about sexting and social media apps to monitor. Click here to see the brochure.