Wisconsin Department of Justice Investigates Nude Photographs of Minors Shared at Middleton High School


Ella Roach

State officials are investigating a report that Middleton High School students may have been involved in sharing nude photographs of students under the age of 18.

By Ella Roach, Middleton High School - WI

The Middleton Police Department received the initial report of nude photographs of minors being passed around on Tuesday, February 11, according to a written statement. They began working with the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District to identify students who may have been victimized or were involved in sharing these pictures. The investigation is ongoing and has yielded no arrests.

On Thursday, the Middleton Police Department announced that the Wisconsin Department of Justice has taken the lead on the investigation “due to the scope of the incident.” The initial investigation into the report of nude photographs led to a greater awareness of the number of people in the high school who had been impacted, a school official said. The scope of the incident remains unknown. School administration has said that they will be better able to estimate the number of students involved and disciplined at the end of next week.

District spokesperson Perry Hibner told Channel 3000 that he could not confirm whether or not disciplinary action had been taken against any students in relation to the situation. He cited that the act of sharing nude photographs would be considered a Level III offense in the Middleton High School code of conduct. Possible consequences of a Level III offense include suspension and expulsion.

Middleton High School Principal Peg Shoemaker declined to comment to The Cardinal Chronicle on the situation, citing confidentiality reasons. However, Shoemaker addressed the student body in a message broadcasted through the school building on Friday morning:

“Students, there are so many unfounded rumors swirling about the situation. I ask you to check yourself about how you respond when you hear these rumors, or if you are contributing to these rumors about specific names or situations. Please refrain from making statements about the part of the investigation. I want to remind you that it is a police matter. We know that big investigations like this have an impact on our school culture and are really difficult to process.”

MHS social worker Kristen Wilson shared a similar message, saying that she would want people to take responsibility if they are participating in the rumor-spreading. “The other thing I would want people to check themselves about is their victim-blaming attitudes,” Wilson said.

Wilson is the faculty advisor of the Sexual Harassment and Assault, Prevention, and Education (SHAPE) club at MHS. She and other administrative support staff have been working with SHAPE students to prepare a response to this incident. Above all, “We’re really in a place of needing to be thoughtful about the information that is shared to not cause harm and to not interfere with an investigation,” Wilson said.

Wilson emphasized that the names of the students involved in the incident do and should remain confidential. Only a small circle of MCPASD staff is aware of the names of the students involved.

In an email sent to parents Thursday afternoon, the school district said they have been “working tirelessly to support our students who have been impacted by the investigation.” They encouraged students to seek out student services staff if they need additional support. In an email sent Friday afternoon, the district provided families with a list of resources enabling them to talk to their children about the ongoing police investigation and reiterated the availability of school support staff. They request that anyone with information regarding the situation contact the Middleton Police Department’s School Resource Officer at 608-829-9665.

This story was originally published on The Cardinal Chronicle on February 14, 2020.