sexting
If any of the students are over 18, they could also face adult rather than juvenile charges where the penalties are stifferReuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

A massive sexting ring involving widespread circulation of hundreds of sexually explicit photos among students at a Colorado high school in the US has triggered a criminal investigation and multiple suspensions. At least 100 students of the Canon City High School were reported to be trading nude pictures and posting them on social media of kids as young as 12.

The students, many of whom are on the football team at the school, have been suspended and could now face criminal charges. If any of the students are over 18, they could also face adult rather than juvenile charges where the penalties are stiffer.

"We will be attempting to identify the people and make our best determination if there have been any violations of the law," Canon City Police Chief Paul Schultz told Reuters. Schultz said a report would be filed within 30 days after which appropriate charges will be filed if necessary.

The possession of explicit photos of minors is a felony in Colorado. The same applies to receiving such a picture and forwarding it to another person, or receiving such a picture and retaining possession of it over time. Police and the district attorney's office are weighing whether to file child pornography charges against some of the participants.

The investigation began on Monday (2 November) after some anonymous students contacted school officials and a tip came through a state student safety hotline. Although the exact number of students who have been suspended has not been revealed, reports say close to a hundred students might be involved in the circulation of up to 400 lewd photographs.

Meanwhile the school's superintendent George Welsh said: "While there isn't a school in the United States that hasn't dealt with the issue of sexting, what's different about this is that it's large scale." The students involved reportedly used password-protected apps that appear to be simple calculators but are used as "photo vaults" to hide the photos from their parents and school officials.