Police in Mountain View were close to wrapping up a more than three-month investigation into high school students allegedly sharing sexually explicit images of minors using an online storage account.
The investigation began in the summer after the principal at Mountain View High School alerted authorities to a Dropbox account containing the explicit pictures of students from multiple high schools in the area, according to police spokeswoman Katie Nelson.
"Back in August, we received a call that there was a Dropbox account being shared that had images of minors that were sexually explicit in nature," Nelson said.
Mountain View police froze the account, and officers began looking for the students behind it, an investigation that led them to other area schools, Nelson said.
Mountain View Police Investigate High School Students Sharing Sexually Explicit Photos
"With social media and technology, with how accessible it is, this stuff happens so frequently, and I think it’s extremely sad," parent Dana Blatz said.
Now, investigators said they are poised to turn over the case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, which will decide whether to press charges against the students.
Because the photos are of minors, the teens that posted them could face criminal charges, legal analyst Steven Clark said.
"Absolutely, they could face child porn charges," he said.
But, Clark added, the more likely scenario is using the incident to educate students.
"It's unlikely they will pursue felonies," Clark said of prosecutors. "They don't want a generation of sex offenders. This is too prevalent."
Parents were frustrated that school administrators never told them about the Dropbox account or the investigation. They said they should have been made aware that inappropriate photos of their kids may have been posted online.
The Mountain View High principal declined to comment, and the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District superintendent did not respond to requests for comment.
At school, teachers reminded students about the risks of using social media.
"She said a lot of people are posting inappropriate things on social media, and we need to be more respectful of each other," senior Sarah Ottenbreit said of her teacher's remarks.
Another senior, Sinai Fatafehi, said she wasn't surprised by the allegations and blames it on easy access.
"It's hard to see; people my age or even younger are just sending pictures," she said. "It's demeaning of themselves. I don’t know if they’re doing it out of money or if they need help ..."
Police did not say how many people may have viewed the photos before the account was frozen.
NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.