All 2,000 students at Forest Grove High School received a thread of email messages on their student accounts that appeared to start as a simple prank but evolved into swear words and pornographic images over the course of two days, from Tuesday, Feb. 16, to the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 17.
Unlike personal email accounts, student accounts are set up through the school and used strictly for contact with teachers or counselors or for schoolwide or classwide messages.
School district officials have not yet responded to the News-Times questions about the incident, but according to several students, the problem started when someone figured out how to send an email to every student email account in each class.
Hi I know how to email the whole school from here, was the approximate message of the original email, said FGHS senior Emma Coffey, who quickly began ignoring the emails after receiving the first few.
Then a number of students started hitting "reply all," which sends a message to every recipient of the original email. The reply all messages became increasingly offensive, displaying cuss words and then pornographic images, videos and links to pornographic websites.
Capt. Mike Herb of the Forest Grove Police Department said sending pornographic images to minors -- no matter how old the sender is -- is illegal. Herb said the FGPD hasn't determined whether any crimes have occurred.
"Some kids are taking this email bug out of control and I swear to God if I get blamed I'm going to flip," read a Facebook post by the person who apparently started the thread. "Someone sent porn to the whole school and the whole school Email system is down."
He also added that "I sent the first email simply by mistake and hitting the reply all button."
According to several students, someone also created a fake gmail account using the name of a FGHS vice principal, then sent a message warning that whoever was sending the emails could be arrested or needed to stop immediately -- but then included a pornographic image at the bottom of that email.
It is generally not a crime to create an email address using someone else's name, Herb said, but added that it could potentially be a crime if it was created with the intention to defraud or commit another crime. That doesn't appear to be the case here.
One email thread was about 100 emails long, Coffey said, and the emails kept blowing up our phones, even during classes. Like most students, Coffey turns off the ringer on her phone during class but still gets a light or a vibration when a message comes in.
According to a Facebook post by the student who allegedly started the email madness, someone registered every student in the school as a member of Club Penguin, a multiplayer online game.
"Also, ever (sic) student of the school has an xvideos account," he posted.
By Thursday morning, Coffey said, students were locked out of their accounts.
We learned last night that students at Forest Grove High School received spam emails with graphic and highly inappropriate content in their school Gmail accounts, FGHS Principal Karen ONeill wrote in a letter addressed to parents Thursday, Feb. 18. Please be reassured that our network and your devices were not hacked. Student data was not compromised. We are collaborating with law enforcement and Google to identify where the emails originated and will continue to investigate until this issue is resolved.