The FBI is investigating “alarming and illegal” internet posts by students in the Port Byron Central School District.
District superintendent Neil O’Brien on Friday alerted parents that the FBI, New York State Police, and Social Sentinel, a security software system the district subscribes to, “all give us warning signs regarding the content that some of our students are posting on social media.”
O’Brien said Saturday that these social media posts include nude photos, but said he couldn’t talk about specifics.
O’Brien said in a weekly newsletter sent by email Friday night that over the past several weeks, he has seen, or been informed by law enforcement about, “students posting images and words that are alarming and illegal. It is beyond eye-opening to have the FBI involved, but some of the items are exploitative, and will result in prosecution for the adults involved.
“I write this week asking for assistance,” O’Brien said. “We frequently speak to the students about the dangers of social media, and have counselors and administrators work with individuals who have been adversely affected by it, but we alone cannot keep up with the issues. There needs to be conversations with and expectations from parents that help ensure that students understand that it is never alright to post nude pictures of yourself or friends. It is never alright to allow someone to make you do something that is harmful, or that violates your personal privacy or values.”
O’Brien said that “based on the issues we’ve encountered over the past year, there have been too many instances of our students being involved in inappropriate posting on social media, or involved in other activities that violate personal privacy and, in some cases, the law.”
“I leave you with two thoughts,” the newsletter states, “One is the fact I have to write in generalities to protect student privacy, and not share too much. The second is that both the volume and the subject matter of these stories would make you cringe and cry. There are far too many of them, and some are just heartbreaking. It can only be arrested when all of us take a stand, and are willing to speak with our kids honestly and from the heart. Having people arrested might mean that someone pays a price, but for the victims, that cost is way too high.”
On Saturday, O’Brien said the district has been dealing with social media issues for years and that schools across the country deal with inappropriate posts from students.
“Unlike the days of old when you’d pass a note to somebody in school and so forth, social media opens the whole world. And there are bad actors all around the world who prey on young people, and so social media’s a gateway,” O’Brien said. “It’s not about Cayuga County, it’s not even about New York, it can be around the world. That’s the scary part.”