The Diocese of Rockville Centre has warned Catholic school principals about a website that shows graphic photos of young girls — photos some boys reportedly have made copies of and are trading “like baseball cards,” the diocese said.
Diocesan officials have no evidence that students in the diocese are involved with the website, but sent out a letter to all principals after receiving an anonymous letter about it from someone claiming to be the parent of a female student, said diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan.
The website “allegedly lists the names of schools with pictures of the female students. Male students have reportedly copied these pictures and trade them ‘like baseball cards,’ ” Mary McMahon, head of the diocesan Office for Protection of Children/Young People, wrote in the letter dated May 13.
The baseball card reference apparently relates to the content of the anonymous letter, which was not released.
“I have not been able to verify the legitimacy of this website due to concerns of downloading a virus; however I believe the information provided in the letter needs to be taken seriously,” McMahon added.
Dolan said he had “no information one way or the other” whether local students are using the website, “but it would be reasonable to assume that this kind of stuff is going on in Long Island. I don’t know whether it is going on in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.”
The letter sent by the diocese was a “pro-active” move to address the issue, he said. Principals were urged to make parents and guidance counselors aware.
Last December, the diocese hosted a week of workshops for parents, principals, teachers and others about the dangers of the Internet.
Nassau County police said they have received no direct complaints about the website and are not investigating it. Some public school officials in Nassau County said they were not aware of any students using the website.
Alane Fagin, executive director of Roslyn-based Child Abuse Prevention Services, said young people who do get involved with such websites can destroy their lives.
Once a photo is posted on the Internet, “it’s there in perpetuity,” she said. “It might have an influence on college admissions. It might have an influence on future employment.”
Male students who trade copies of the photos are breaking the law by dealing in child pornography, Fagin said.
In her letter, McMahon wrote that “unfortunately, teens do not realize the dangers of the Internet. The lure of popularity and peer approval outweighs the inherent dangers of sites such as the one above. Young girls are cooperating with the request to submit pictures and are, unknowingly, participating in their own victimization.”