The Harford County Sheriff's Office is investigating pictures of naked girls believed to be from Edgewood High School posted on Facebook, spokesman Eddie Hopkins said Thursday.
More than a dozen pictures were reported posted in a call from an Abingdon location at 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Sheriff's Office calls for service.
Hopkins said the Facebook page has since been taken down, "and we are unable to locate it when we do a search."
A police officer did see the photos and filed a report, Hopkins said. Since then, Facebook took the photos down in response to what Hopkins believes to be a request from law enforcement.
He said Child Advocacy Center officials will now have to work with Facebook in an attempt to see the photos again.
The photos were not on an official school page, but were on some type of page that referenced Edgewood High School, he said.
Hopkins said the call report does not list the suspected ages of the girls. He also said police don't believe the photos were posted by the girls themselves.
"The more likely scenario is that they took the photos themselves and forwarded them to a friend/boyfriend/girlfriend," he wrote in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, teens sharing these pictures with friends/boyfriends/girlfriends is being seen more and more often. Then whoever they may have forwarded them to may have sent them to a third party who ultimately posted them on the site."
"Based on a preliminary review of the case it does not appear to be child pornography," Hopkins wrote. "To be child pornography the display must meet a certain criteria."
"The Child Advocacy Center was made aware of this and will continue to investigate this and other similar incidents to see if they can determine who created the page," he said.
Hopkins noted this is not the first time the Sheriff's Office has dealt with such an incident.
"Similar Facebook postings are reported from time to time and if the girls posted the pictures of themselves, and there is no sexual contact or if it doesn't fall within any other guidelines, it may not be a crime," he said. "The only way we'll know for sure is to locate, view and investigate the [Facebook] page in question."
Hopkins also said it highlights the importance of young adults being aware of such situations online.
"We strongly discourage teens from participating in this behavior and we encourage parents and teens alike to notify law enforcement when they observe these Facebook sites so that they can be immediately removed and the identities of the teens protected," he said.
"Parents and teens really need to fully understand and be aware of what they are doing when teens participate in this type behavior," he said. "As we all know once the digital image is out there it doesn't go away and the person depicted has very little control over what is done with the photos once they are out of the control of the sender."
Teri Kranefeld, spokeswoman for Harford County Public Schools, said the school system was notified by the Sheriff's Office about the situation.
"Cybersafety is an issue that we have been working proactively to address with local and state law enforcement and other stakeholders in the community," Kranefeld wrote in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, this is an increasing trend and we will continue to work collaboratively with community partners to bring awareness of the resulting risks and consequences of this type of behavior."