Ten boys, aged 13 to 15, appeared in youth court in Laval, Que., today to face child pornography charges, after a school teacher caught a boy with explicit photos allegedly taken with the smartphone application Snapchat.
Laval police arrested the 10 boys who police allege were trading photos -- in several cases, of each other's girlfriends -- among themselves on their smartphones.
All of the teens were charged with possession and distribution of child pornography, while two of the boys also face charges for producing child pornography.
Laval police Const. Nathalie Lorrain said police and parents were called to a Laval high school in the English-language Wilfrid Laurier School Board, after a school staff member discovered a male student was showing other boys sexually explicit photographs of a girl.
"There was a small network of 10 young men that were soliciting young girls that some of them knew very well," said Lorrain.
"They were asking these girls for sexually explicit pictures -- sometimes with a lot of insistence."
She said the photos were shared among boys at three Laval schools:
Late this afternoon, the school board issued a written statement, saying that the board takes incidents like these very seriously and is proactive in implementing its schools preventative educational strategies to teach students.
"The school teams have been implementing strategies to raise awareness and educate students on safe and responsible use of technology," said the board's director general Stephanie Vucko. "More importantly, intimidation of any sort is not tolerated at any schools of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board."
Vucko called on parents to be vigilant, "as these incidents occur off school premises but resurface when the students are at the school."
"Courageous conversations need to take place to discuss the [misuse] of technologies that are so readily accessible," she said.
Boys released into parents' custody
After a brief court appearance this afternoon, the boys were released into the custody of their parents.
They are due back in court on Jan. 20.
They were ordered to adhere to a number of conditions: to keep the peace, to maintain orderly conduct and to refrain from any contact with the alleged victims unless they cross their paths at school.
The boys have also been banned from using computers and any other electronic devices that would give them access to the internet, unless it is for school work and unless they are supervised by a parent or school official.
Laval police said the investigation continues. They said there could be more arrests, and there could be more victims.
Girls thought Snapchat was safe, police say
Lorrain said some of the alleged victims thought they were safe because they were using the Snapchat app, which allows users to take and send photos that disappear from a receiver's device after a few seconds.
However, she said, the young men involved would capture and save screen grabs of the photos before they disappeared.
"Once the picture is sent in cyberspace, it's completely lost," Lorrain said. "You can't recuperate that, unfortunately."
Lorrain said Laval police want to broadcast a clear message that the sharing of explicit photos can spiral into dangerous situations.
"In some cases, the girls were pretty shaken up when they found out," Lorrain said.
"What we want really is for these young people to respect themselves," she said. "The boys respect the girls. Girls, respect yourselves, and don't send pictures like that."
Teens in Rehtaeh Parsons case also charged
The charges against the Laval teens coincide with the appearance of two 18-year-old men in provincial court in Halifax, charged in connection with the Rehtaeh Parsons case.
One man is charged with creating and distributing child pornography and a second with distributing child pornography.
Both were youths at the time of her death last spring. The 17-year-old was taken off life support a few days after a suicide attempt.
According to her parents, four boys sexually assaulted their daughter at a house party when she was 15. The Cole Harbour, N.S., teen was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a digital photo of the attack was circulated at school and on social media.
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