FORT MYERS, Fla.- The Lee County Sheriff’s Office said Monday it will join the Department of Children and Families in investigating a local sex scandal that is receiving national attention.
On Friday, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said it would not investigate the incident involving a female student having sex with as many as 25 boys in a South Fort Myers High School bathroom.
The sheriff’s office now says it is looking into alleged video and images of the incident being posted to social media.
Questions about the scandal do not end with agencies’ investigations. The unnamed Lee County students have sparked conversations across the country, online and even overseas.
Many of those conversations revolve around possible disciplinary action against the involved students. The Lee County School District Director of Public Relations, Amity Chandler, wrote via email that she would be unable to provide additional details and cited privacy concerns.
“This incident involves student discipline as well as a law enforcement investigation. The district has addressed every question that we can address without violating students’ rights to privacy,” Chandler said.
The school district also declined comment last week when information about the scandal surfaced in LCSO reports.
South Fort Myers Principal Melissa Layner’s response mirrored the district’s comments. She sent a letter to parents ensuring that the involved students were disciplined. She wrote that her administration team was hoping to move forward and could not comment on the actions they had taken.
“We dealt with student discipline surrounding this incident this week quickly and we are focused on student success today,” she wrote.
Layner also tried to tackle another hot topic circulating in social media conversations: school safety.
“The incident this week should not be a reflection on our combined efforts … to keep our building and students secure and safe,” she wrote. “Providing our students cooperate with the expectations articulated to them each day, our school is a safe place.”
Trauma and Charges?
The incident could create waves of trauma throughout the school, said psychiatrist Omar Rieche. He said despite Prinicipal Layner’s claims, students can be made to feel unsafe.
“Most students will feel like they are not in a secure place and may feel targeted,” he said.
One mother said her daughter is traumatized. The mother wants her child removed from the school because she saw video of the incident in class.
“She said ‘Mom, this girl’s head was in the toilet bowl and she looked like she was dying and there were a whole bunch of guys in there taking turns with her,'” the mother, who did not want to be identified said. “It is child porn and it is happening right here in front of our face in front of our children’s face.”
The graphic video allegedly shows 25 teenage boys having sex with one student. The daughter said the video has been posted on social media and exchanged in text messages.
Now that LCSO is involved again, Defense Attorney Lance Dunford warns that criminal charges could be pending.
So far, no students have been charged in connection with the scandal. However, Dunford said teens who distributed the videos or have images from the incident on their phones could face child pornography charges and jail time. It’s a felony, Dunford said.
“It certainly is. You have someone depicted in the video or pictures that is not over the age of 18 she is a minor,” he said. “Parents, talk to your teenagers about these things. This is a big deal.”
The school principal said she was not able to track down the video that students said was circulated online. The school maintains that with nearly 2,000 students, the recent incident remains isolated.