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Beverly schools, police investigate sexting incident

Two students who became involved in sexting in eighth grade last spring as well as additional students who viewed the explicit material last month are facing punishment from the Beverly schools, but officials said they wanted to resolve the situation without criminal charges.

“We want to utilize this as a learning experience,” said Sean Gallagher, Beverly High School principal.

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A few weeks ago, school officials heard rumors that a “suggestive” video of a student had been circulated among middle and high school students, Gallagher said.

Police and school officials interviewed students and parents over a two-week period to determine the nature of the sexting as well as the appropriate response, according to a statement posted on the Beverly Public Schools website.

“Our ultimate goal was to protect our students,” Gallagher said. Many of the students involved were 13- and 14-year-olds, he said.

The high school had six students involved in the incident. The students received discipline ranging from detention to suspension, Gallagher said. Students from the Briscoe Middle School were also involved, he said.

Instead of charging the students, officials want to “allow educational decisions to take priority and to assist future use of the Internet and proper use of technology,” said the statement.

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“The advancement of technology has been beneficial in the workplace,” Gallagher said, “but when students make mistakes, it can be extremely profound.”

The high school plans to stress Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett’s “Think Before You Send: Using Digital Communication Responsibly” program to students, Gallagher said.

“We really want to emphasize that students should take a step back and think about what they’re sending, think if they want that to be posted,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher said the high school has never had a similar incident.

Jasper can be reached at jasper.craven@globe.com or on Twitter @Jasper_Craven

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