A Connecticut varsity football team has been barred from its Friday night game after some members were caught sharing sexually explicit photos and videos in a group chat, according to parents and school officials.
Parents said the group chat among some members of the Plainfield High School varsity football team included naked pictures of underage girls, as well as pictures of a team member exposing himself and copies of their own sexual videos.
"I would hope things like that don't go on," Lolita Babiarz, of Plainfield, said. "You know, especially in our school. Or any school."
Principal Jim Worth did not go into detail, but said he learned after school dismissed Thursday, Oct. 15 that a chat between students had evolved from a discussion of football to one that contained a variety of topics, some of which were inappropriate.
"It started as kids talking about football, but it evolved," Worth told NBC Connecticut. "It contained a variety of topics, some that were inappropriate."
The school immediately launched an internal investigation and reached out to Plainfield police for advice, but said there is no criminal investigation underway.
Worth said Thursday afternoon the school's internal investigation is complete and found the activity in question violated the athletic and school codes of conduct. A longer-term investigation is still underway, according to the school.
The Plainfield superintendent called the forfeit a matter of "team responsibility" and points out not all players participated in the chat. He said "Plainfield has taken a strong line on the expectations for student behaviors," as the school board requires all student athletes to participate in a workshop annually before their season starts to address the issues of academics, sportsmanship and wellness.
"The district decided that the team needed to accept responsibility as a team and forfeit the game, said Dr. Kenneth Di Pietro, Plainfield's school superintendent. "The public should not assume that all student athletes are responsible."
He said that the school does "respect the privacy rights of our students and families but we also accept responsibility to help student develop responsible behaviors."
"As soon as the high school learned of some messaging concerns, every student was addressed with parents - as appropriate," Di Pietro said. "However, given that the messaging network originated among members of the football team and information was not made available to school authorities."
Di Pietro said the district is "addressing some concerns with student messaging." Worth said he has spoken individually with the parents of the students involved and the students. He also spoke with Waterford administrators.
"I'm glad they're investigating," said Heidi Willard, of Plainfield, whose son is on the football team but didn't participate in the chat. "I hope the truth comes out and that justice is served."
Plainfield police have not responded to requests for comment.
At this point, there's no word on whether any students are facing team suspensions or other discipline. The team has been suspended from playing Friday's game against Waterford.