According to multiple community sources, the students were playing a game to trade and collect sexual images of teenage girls, some of whom are students at the school.

The girls were being asked to take nude photos of themselves and to forward those photos to boys. The boy who collected the most images in a week’s time would win.

The game didn’t get that far, though, as the school alerted the Auburn Police Department, which sent officers to the school on Friday, Oct. 30. Phones that contained images were confiscated, according to sources, and the involved students — 47 girls and boys among the 200 students — were punished with various suspensions and community service.

On Friday, Deputy Chief Jason Moen of the Auburn Police Department confirmed that police had an active juvenile criminal investigation that was launched last week, but he would not confirm it was linked to St. Dom’s. “I am prohibited from giving out any type of identifying information regarding the case,” Moen said.

On Monday night, St. Dom’s administrators sent emails to all parents saying they “addressed an issue regarding inappropriate use of technology in violation of the Saint Dominic Academy Code of Student Conduct.”

According to that email, “The school investigated the matter immediately; the small number of students involved admitted their culpability and their parents were notified.”

Contacted Friday, Portland Diocese spokesman Dave Guthro said the number of suspended students wasn’t as high as Sun Journal sources said. He said the number was between 15 and 20.

Guthro said the sexting “is not an ongoing problem and the safety of students was never threatened at any time.”

He declined additional comment, saying the diocese respects the privacy of students, pointing out that the letter sent to parents encouraged them to contact the school if they had additional questions about what happened.

In the email that went to parents, school administrators wrote, “Mistakes were made by several students and are being addressed as prescribed within our school policies.”

The letter said, “The school recognizes the tremendous societal pressures that students face. We will work together with families to help to deliver further educational opportunities to help students thrive when faced with difficult choices,” and will work “with students and families to ensure that this is a learning experience.”

St. Dom’s, one of two Catholic high schools in Maine, “is committed to providing our young students our excellent academic training, but also forming them as people of faith and virtue, which includes a moral compass with which to guide their lives,” according to the email.

The message continued: “Jesus taught us that it is not always easy to remain on the path of truth and virtue. Forming our young people to understand and learn from their mistakes is a crucial part of discovering how to live in the world with faith.”

St. Dom’s was founded in 1941 to expand the Catholic education offered at St. Joseph’s Elementary School up through high school, according to the President’s Welcome on the school’s website. It is a college preparatory school that sends 95 percent of its graduates on to college.

According to the school’s website, students come from Lewiston, Auburn and surrounding towns, and also from Waterville, Portland, Fryeburg and the coast.

St. Dominic Academy Principal Joline Girouard referred all questions about the sexting investigation to Jim King, superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools. Messages left for King were not returned.

Auburn School Superintendent Katy Grondin said the sexting game was not detected at Edward Little High School. Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said there have been sexting instances at Lewiston High School, but he wasn’t aware of anything recently or of anything connected to a game.

The problem of sexting among high school students is considered a national problem, with the most recent episode reported in Canon City, Colo.

On Thursday, according to KDVR TV in Denver, parents were called to a meeting at Canon City High School and were told about hundreds of students involved in a large-scale sexting ring there, in which photos of students as young as eighth-graders were collected and shared with other students like trading cards. The school canceled its Saturday football game because some of the players were involved in the sexting, forfeiting a potential playoff position.

In a number of communities across the country, students have faced possible criminal charges after sexting investigations in their schools, including Fairfax, Va., Nampa, Idaho, Rochester, Mich., Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego and Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago.

In 2011 in Milton, Vt., according to ABC News, five Milton High School male students asked female students to send them indecent pictures. The boys then forwarded those images to a group gmail account to which a number of students had access.

A total of 22 students were involved in that case but no one was charged.

At the time, Detective Cpl. Paul Locke told ABC News police decided not to charge students because they “wanted to make it more of an educational experience than … a punitive experience.”

“We don’t want a mistake they made at 14 to haunt them their entire life,” Locke told ABC.

Staff Writer Scott Taylor contributed to this report.

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