Court Rules Parents Can Stop 'Sexting' Subjects From Facing Charges

Filed under: In The News

Posing for a photograph, which then becomes the subject of a "sext," is not a criminal offense, according to the federal court of appeals.

The court finalized its first ruling concerning "sexting" earlier this week, The New York Times reports. This decision allows parents to block the prosecution of their children on child pornography charges for posing in photographs found on classmates' cell phones.

"Sexting," the sharing of sexual explicit material via text message, is a fairly new craze among teens and preteens, and has been causing controversy across numerous school districts.

The case that called for the new ruling, Miller v. Mitchell, began in 2008 in a Pennsylvania school, The Times reports. School officials found nude and semi-nude pictures of girls as young as 12 on students' cell phones. The officials took the phones and gave them to the Wyoming County District Attorney's Office.

According to The Times, District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. sent letters to the parents of students in the photos and those who had the photos on their phones, stating that the students could be prosecuted for possessing and distributing child pornography. Skumanick, the newspaper reports, threatened to prosecute any student involved who did not attend or complete an after-school education program, in which the girls were to write an essay explaining why they were in the program, what they had done and why it was wrong.

The families of three girls in the photos refused to participate in the course and filed suit to block the charges, The Times says. They said the girls had constitutional rights to be photographed as a means of free speech and that the district attorney interfered with parents' rights to guide their child's education.

The court's opinion stated: "Appearing in a photograph provides no evidence as to whether that person possessed or transmitted the photo."

"It does not resolve all of the constitutional issues implicated in sexting prosecutions, but it's a terrific start for civil liberties," Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, who represented the parents, tells The Times.

Related: Rhode Island Lawmakers to 'Sexting' Kids: You Need Help, Not Jail



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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.