Investigation Continues Into AI-Generated Images at Beverly Vista Middle School

After artificially generated nude images of female students circulated last week at Beverly Vista Middle School (BVMS), the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) has launched a criminal investigation into the teens involved in making them. Made using artificial intelligence (AI) technology, the pictures shared by BVMS classmates showed real students’ faces superimposed seamlessly on naked bodies. The incident represents a growing concern over cyberbullying and the dissemination of nonconsensual “deepfake” imagery, whereby one person’s likeness is digitally manipulated to replace another. 

It’s unclear how many students were involved in creating and disseminating the fraudulent images and how many victims there were. According to BHPD Lieutenant Andrew Myers, the investigation is ongoing.

“Collectively, we are nothing short of outraged by this behavior and we are prepared to implement the most severe disciplinary actions allowable under California Education Code,” district officials said in an email to BVMS parents. “Any student found to be creating, disseminating, or in possession of AI-generated images of this nature will face disciplinary actions, including, but not limited to, a recommendation for expulsion.”

With the emergence of apps that can “undress” people, BVMS is one of many schools around the world being forced to confront a novel form of bullying. In November, AI-generated pornographic photos of female students from Westfield High School in New Jersey circulated, prompting a probe by police. Similar incidents were reported last fall at schools in Seattle, Washington, Extremadura, Spain and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As a direct result, U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation in Congress to create a federal framework to protect an individual’s right to their likeness from AI manipulation. 

“It’s time for bad actors using AI to face the music,” Florida representative María Elvira Salazar said in a Jan. 10 press release. “This bill plugs a hole in the law and gives artists and U.S. citizens the power to protect their rights, their creative work, and their fundamental individuality online.” Salazar introduced the bill along with Pennsylvania Congresswoman Madeline Dean. 

While Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) administrators noted that such an incident “may not yet be classified as a crime,” any criminal offenses discovered “will be addressed to the fullest extent possible.”

Currently, BHUSD uses a positive behavior intervention system (PBIS) to combat bullying, which is focused on identifying, teaching, and reinforcing positive behavior in students and evidence-based intervention practices to address problematic behaviors. Students and parents are always encouraged to report bullying by contacting their school principal or filling out a confidential online form.

“There are Bulldog students who are hurting from this event, and that is to be expected given what has happened,” BVMS Principal Dr. Kelly Skon wrote in an email to the school community. “We are also seeing courage and resilience from these students in trying to get normalcy back in their lives from this outrageous act.”

The Beverly Hills Unified School District’s Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy addressed the issue during the board’s Feb. 27 meeting. 

Bregy said the district’s highest priority is to ensure the well-being of the students who were victimized. The superintendent added that he has been visiting Beverly Vista over the past several days, and students at the middle school appeared “resilient,” albeit “a little confused about what’s happening.”

Board members thanked administrators for taking the matter seriously and acting immediately. They also discussed the effect of new technology like AI on children, coupled with the ubiquity of social media. It’s a developing field of research that the district is watching closely, and they’re continually developing best practices regarding the use of tech in the classroom.

“Part of our responsibility is for students, that they understand this technology, that they’re able to use this technology for the future, but also how to use that technology in the most appropriate ways,” Bregy said. “I want to assure the community how important this is to all of us.”

District officials and the board had been closely examining how artificial intelligence might be abused by students to commit plagiarism or cheat on assignments shortly before the start of the Fall semester. That is part of the reason why they implemented a ban on the use of cell phones on campus across the district at the start of the current school year. 

Bregy and the board emphasized the importance of parents and families in guiding children toward healthy habits in their use of technology and social media. They urged everyone to maintain a dialogue with their children and pay attention to the apps they use and how they use them.

School Board Member Judy Manouchehri reminded parents that the district offers a wealth of sports and other after-school programs available. She strongly encouraged them to get their kids involved in activities that will decrease their screen time while interacting with their peers face-to-face more often.

“We really reach out to our parent partners as well, because we need some help,” Bregy said.