Gardiner police have seized cellphones as part of an ongoing investigation into a report of sexting – sending sexually explicit photos or email on cellphones – among students at Gardiner Area High School.

“We have an open investigation that was brought to our attention by the administration of Gardiner Area High School that could involve sexting or dissemination of inappropriate pictures through the use of the app Snapchat,” Gardiner police Chief James Toman said.

Toman said Wednesday that police were in their third day of the investigation and that students were being interviewed at the high school.

“The high school is the place where the people involved are located, and it’s the easiest place to coordinate interviews of students – who may or may not be involved – with the permission of their parents,” he said.

Toman said Detective Sgt. Todd Pilsbury is the primary investigator, and that David Tims is the Police Department’s school resource officer.

Patricia Hopkins, superintendent of Regional School Unit 11, acknowledged the investigation.

“There has been some sexting going on,” Hopkins said. “It’s been done on privately owned phones, not on school-owned laptops.”

She said no students have been suspended as a result of the investigation, and that the school takes a proactive approach to educating students about dangers of some online behavior.

“We have a program required of all sophomores, an online etiquette course, Netiquette, on the dos and don’ts of anything online,” she said. “Sexting is (covered) as a part of the course.”

Students at other Maine schools have been disciplined for sexting. Last year in Oakland, police worked with Facebook to take down a page that threatened to post nude photos of local underage girls,.

Toman said he is unsure whether any charges will result from the investigation at Gardiner Area High School.

“Any electronic device that might have been seized in relation to that, there is a protocol we have to follow, and we have no idea when the devices might be able to be searched legally,” Toman said, adding that the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force would be doing that phase of the investigation.

Results of those searches, along with the results of the interviews with students, will be sent to Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney to determine whether charges are appropriate, Toman said.

He also recommended some steps parents can take to help prevent problems, and he encouraged “routine inspections and audits” of devices used by their children.

“I think it’s important for parents to have a discussion with their kids about the dangers of sending what might be considered an inappropriate picture,” he said. “Parents should have ongoing conversations with teens about proper and improper use of cellular devices and apps and what is appropriate to send to another person.”