File Photo – Richmond-Burton Community High School | Photo: District 157

Two juveniles have been charged after sexually explicit images of students and staff members at Richmond High School were created, possibly using artificial intelligence, and then distributed.

Richmond-Burton Community High School Principal Mike Baird sent a letter to parents last month about an incident that the district was made aware of on March 11.

Baird said some “sensitive images” were created and circulated on a computer.

The school contacted the Richmond Police Department after being informed of the situation.

“We are currently working side by side with them in a thorough investigation of the matter. I want to assure you that we are treating this situation with the utmost seriousness and are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students,” Baird said.

Stephanie Essex, a parent whose daughter attends the school, told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that another student took photographs of other students and teachers and used artificial intelligence to turn them into nude photographs.

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The student then shared the modified photos with other students.

Approximately 30 students and three staff members were victimized, Essex said, adding that none of the photographs the student initially took were inappropriate to start with.

The parent said was “absolutely livid” from the beginning of the situation. “At first my daughter was pretty upset. She felt nauseous and ultimately left school part way through the day.”

“There was some crying and then the fear of who else has those images or how could them impact her future. Now she’s mad about it too and she wants this young man held accountable,” Essex said last month.

Baird asked parents to take a moment to engage in conversations with their children about the potential dangers associated with social media and the permanent impact of decisions made online.

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“Furthermore, please encourage your children to learn from positive examples in their lives, including the guidance provided by their parents and guardians. The choices we make on social media can have lasting consequences, and it is essential for us as adults to set a positive example for our young people,” Baird said.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally confirmed to Lake and McHenry County Scanner on Sunday that two juveniles had been arrested on Monday in connection with the case.

The first suspect was charged with 17 counts of child pornography, a Class 1 felony, and two counts of distribution of harmful material to a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.

The second suspect was charged with 13 counts of child pornography, a Class 1 felony, and four counts of distribution of harmful material to a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.

Essex said Sunday she is “thrilled to hear the individuals responsible have been charged.”

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“I am incredibly thankful for Sgt Filicaro [and] the Richmond Police Department for all the work they put into the investigation and I sincerely appreciate the States Attorney taking this case seriously,” Essex said.