|NUMBER 284||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||SEPTEMBER 2009|
|'Sexting' Involves Students in Child Pornography|
States and school districts are confronting a major problem in students' practice of "sexting," or sending pornographic images over their cell phones or email. Teachers and administrators report that middle school and high school girls commonly send nude pictures of themselves to their peers, especially to older male students whose attention they want to attract. Recipients then forward these images on to other teens' cell phones or email accounts.
In a survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 22% of teenage girls and 18% of teenage boys said they had sent nude pictures of themselves electronically. "In our survey, four out of ten said exchanging this sexy content in the ether makes dating or hooking up with others much more likely," said the campaign's spokesman, Bill Albert. "Those who exchange sexy content are expected to hook up."
High-profile cases in several states have highlighted the resulting damage. In Ohio last year, an 18-year-old girl committed suicide after her ex-boyfriend forwarded nude photos of her, which she had sent to him, to many of her classmates. But this practice can also have serious consequences for students who are involved merely in sending or receiving photos of their peers. In most states, these students can be charged with the felony crime of possession of child pornography. In 2007, an 18-year-old boy in Orlando sent nude photos of his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend to dozens of people. He was charged with distributing child pornography, and is now on the state's sex-offender registry.
"We investigate 'sexting' like any kind of child pornography case, because that's basically what it is," said Broward Sheriff's Office Detective Eric Hendel (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7-27-09). Most students don't realize that both sender and receiver are equally culpable of possessing the pornographic images. School districts across the nation are considering ways to address this practice, make students aware that it is a crime, and deal with "sexting" as a frequent disciplinary problem in schools.
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