Wakefield Schools working with police after high school “upskirting” scandal

WAKEFIELD, Mass. — Wakefield Public Schools is “working closely” with police after a high school student is accused of taking hundreds of voyeuristic pictures of female students and posting the images online, Superintendent Douglas Lyons said Friday.

“The steps we’ve taken to address this behavior so far have aligned with our policies and procedures around student discipline, and we are working closely with the Wakefield Police Department to support law enforcement’s work related to this incident,” Lyons wrote in an email to Boston 25.

Lyons said the district first became aware of the incident on October 11, and described the allegations against the underage student as a “serious and inappropriate use of social media.”

“As soon as this conduct was reported, we began collaborating with the Wakefield Police Department and took action to develop a fuller understanding of its impacts, and address the situation,” Lyons said.

But parents told us they’re furious because the boy is set to return to class next week after an extended absence, and according to one father, the school district did not tell parents what his punishment is or what the plan is to keep him away from the girls he photographed.

“I refer to the young man as a sexual predator,” he said. “I’m not talking about innocent, candid photos. I’m talking about photos that are inappropriate.”

Boston 25 is not identifying the father because his underage daughter is the victim of sexual harassment and online bullying. The father said a male high school student took more than 200 “upskirting” pictures of female students without their consent, posted the pictures on the social media site Discord, and joked about rape.

“It’s been framed as ‘inappropriate social media behavior.’ That isn’t even close to what this is,” he said.

Dozens of parents and students protested outside the high school Friday, holding signs that read “protect the victim, not the predator” and “our girls deserve better.”

“We want to be able to feel safe in school. The administration is clearly failing at the moment, so we’re trying to protest that right now,” Wakefield High School student Jenna Rossi said.

“Although there may have been only a dozen girls affected, I would argue the entire student body feels unsafe,” student Izzy Buckley said.

Lyons said privacy laws prevent him from releasing more information.

“I am cognizant of the concern and frustration many in our community feel about this incident, but state and federal privacy rules place limits on how much we can share about this incident publicly. Still, I want to reassure all of our stakeholders that we are committed to working to ensure our students feel physically and emotionally safe in school,” Lyons said.

Police Chief Steven A. Skory confirmed the department has an open investigation into the matter.

“We are assisting the Wakefield High School administration with an investigation. There is nothing I can discuss at this time because this incident involves juveniles,” Skory said in an email.

“I just don’t think [the boy] coming back to school Monday is appropriate,” the father said. “I didn’t see a human reaction from these [school] administrators. I feel like they want to check their boxes, offer counseling, get through the process and have it go away.”

A spokesperson for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office said they are aware of the accusations.

“We were notified of an alleged incident at the high school and have consulted with the police department on this matter. As this involves juveniles we are not able to comment further at this time,” the spokesperson said.