Charges being referred in Menasha sexting case

MENASHA – Ten area students could be in legal trouble after more than 100 nude and semi-nude pictures ended up online. It stems from an investigation at Menasha High School. However, police say some of the students involved go to other schools.

“Unfortunately, children make poor choices sometimes,” said Menasha School District Superintendent Chris VanderHeyden, who expressed disappointment Monday.

Officials say female students at the high school were pressured to send nude and semi-nude pictures of themselves to other students. Those pictures were posted to the photo-sharing website Instagram, without their knowledge.

“If you put that picture out there or you make that statement, you don’t get it back. You lose control of something as soon as you let go of it electronically and there are consequences,” said VanderHeyden.

The Instagram page was password-protected, but several students had access to the site.

A friend of one of the girls who had a picture posted on the site told school officials last month.

Monday, four boys between 14-15 years old were referred for juvenile charges of possession of child pornography. Six girls between 15-16 years old were referred for juvenile charges of disorderly conduct for sending the pictures.

“I’m not sure what was their initial intent. I think this may have been something that they thought was fun initially but then kind of took on a life of its own with how many pictures they were able to acquire,” said Menasha Police Chief Tim Styka.

The superintendent says the school district doesn’t plan any changes to its policy about the use of electronic devices. But he says the district already teaches students about the dangers of similar activities, starting in the sixth grade.

“I hope we continue to emphasize it as we have and continue to work with kids to make good choices that there are consequences that go along with the choices that you make,” said VanderHeyden.

Police say none of the pictures were taken on school grounds. They also say no adults or school staff was involved.

A decision about charges is now in the hands of the Winnebago County District Attorney’s Office.

Police say they are referring juvenile charges because of the help that the students can receive. They say it will offer a better balance between education and punishment.

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