Authorities are reviewing claims that students engaged in sexual activity on a Durham high school campus, and some teens are under investigation for distribution of child pornography.
The Durham County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the case involving students at Riverside High School, with a spokesperson citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Search warrants obtained Wednesday by CBS 17 reveal the case began Friday, May 17, when a pair of students got in an “altercation” about a recording which showed the two involved in a a sex act. The girl told the Riverside School Resource Officer the boy showed the video to classmates and told other students about the recording.
She said the boy previously attempted to record their intimate moments, but she had said no. The girl told the deputy the video shown to classmates was recorded against her will.
Two students told the SRO that the boy and one of his friends used Instagram to stream a video of a sexual encounter he had with the girl, and that they saw the recording. The officer’s report said “The Instagram live footage gave access to all of their followers to view the sexual conduct being displayed.”
Investigators heard from one student that another girl previously withdrew from school after the same male student showed classmates a video of himself and the girl “conducting sexual conduct on school property in a classroom.”
Deputies seized several cell phones as part of the investigation in order to review data on the devices, which search warrants indicate includes evidence sent by the boy accused of recording and sharing the video.
The officer’s report said Assistant Principal Britton Brown told investigators he “found out students were conducting sexual acts in a classroom near the RPC classroom.”
Durham Public School documents identify RPC as an acronym for Restorative Practice Center, which students said involves disciplinary correction which was previously referred to as In School Suspension.
“It (happened in) a classroom in our school and we don’t know which class. I don’t know. I’m in shock,” student Jailah Rumsey said as she left school with Amia Gatlin Wednesday afternoon.
“It surprises me,” Gatlin said. “People asked me ‘have you heard about the sex room?’ They just been like ‘have you heard about the sex room?’ I’m like ‘what’, and then we looked it up on the news and saw it. It was just appalling that someone would actually do that at school.”
A Durham Public Schools spokesperson provided the following statement to CBS 17:
Riverside Principal Tonya Williams and her team, as well as the Durham County Office of the Sheriff, are investigating allegations that some students engaged in inappropriate sexual activity on the Riverside campus that was then shared to social media. Principal Williams has taken steps to help prevent such incidents from happening in the future. Due to student privacy laws we cannot share any more information on the subject, but we are investigating, and the safety and privacy of our students is our highest concern.
Rumsey and Gatlin said the students involved should receive some sort of punishment because of the conduct on campus, but they did not think the girl should face any sort of criminal charges.
“They both knew what they were getting into, but I guess the girl didn’t know she was being recorded,” Gatlin said.
“You can’t trust anyone. I wouldn’t put myself in that situation to be recorded. I feel like it’s something personal that you shouldn’t do in a public place like school. Why would you do that at school?”
Senior Matthew Rigsbee said there was a lot of chatter about a ‘sex room’ and that he worried about the girl who had her privacy exposed.
“I really feel bad for her. Hopefully everything goes well and it won’t keep up with her for the rest of her life,” said Rigsbee. “I’m really surprised it’s happening. Our administration’s really great, and it’s just kind of surprising for it to be happening.”
Students Ben Neal and Camilia Patterson said this is an isolated incident that is not reflective of Riverside High School as a whole. Both said this may unfairly harm the school’s reputation.