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Middle School Students Expelled Over AI-Generated Illicit Images

After an investigation, Beverly Hills Unified School District expelled five students of Beverly Vista Middle School for creating and sharing fake nude images of 16 other students that had been generated by AI.

Beverly Vista Middle School
Security guards stand outside at Beverly Vista Middle School on Feb. 26, 2024, in Beverly Hills, California.
Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS
(TNS) — Five Beverly Hills eighth-graders have been expelled for their involvement in the creation and sharing of fake nude pictures of their classmates.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District board of education voted at a special meeting Wednesday evening to approve stipulated agreements of expulsion with five students. According to a source close to the investigation, the expelled students were attending Beverly Vista Middle School. Under a stipulated agreement, the students and their parents do not contest the punishment and no hearing was held.

The names of the students were not released, and the agreements are confidential. Typically, however, such agreements specify how long a student is expelled and what the terms are for their return to the district.

According to Supt. Michael Bregy, the five students who were the focus of its investigation were the "most egregiously involved" in the creation and sharing of the images, which superimposed pictures of real students' faces onto simulated nude bodies generated by artificial intelligence. The victims, the district said, were 16 eighth-grade students.

Shared through messaging apps, the images outraged parents and school officials, prompting Bregy to tell parents in a message last month that he was prepared to impose "the most severe disciplinary actions allowed by state law." The students involved were identified and disciplined in less than 24 hours, but the district did not move to expel them until it completed its investigation.

The Beverly Hills Police Department and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office are still investigating the incident, but no arrests have been made or charges brought. California's laws against possessing child pornography and sharing nonconsensual nude pictures do not specifically apply to AI-generated images, which legal experts say would pose a problem for prosecutors.

The fake nudes circulated briefly among Beverly Vista students in late February, school officials say. They haven't specified how the images were made, other than to say it involved generative A.I.

Dozens of A.I.-powered apps are available online to "undress" someone in a photo, simulating what a person would look like if they'd been nude when the shot was taken. Other A.I.-based tools allow you to "face swap" a targeted person's face onto another person's nude body.

Versions of these programs have been available for years, but the earlier ones were expensive, harder to use and less realistic. Today, AI tools can clone lifelike images and quickly create fakes; even using a smartphone, it can be accomplished in a matter of seconds.

In a message to parents Thursday evening, Bregy said, "This incident has spurred crucial discussions on the ethical use of technology, including AI, underscoring the importance of vigilant and informed engagement within digital environments. In response, our district is steadfast in its commitment to enhancing education around digital citizenship, privacy, and safety for our students, staff, and parents which was immediately reemphasized at all schools following the incident."

No specific policy change has been announced in response to the incident, but the district had already prohibited students from using cell phones on campus.

Bregy said that the nude images, which were reported to school officials Feb. 21, were contained within 24 hours.

"We recognize that kids are still learning and growing, and mistakes are part of this process," he said in the message. "However, accountability is essential, and appropriate measures have been taken."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.