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By being aware of the relevant law and having policies in place to deal with sexting, prosecutors and law enforcement, school districts, parents, and teenagers themselves can curb sexting behavior while avoiding liability.The crime of sexting Sexting can have serious social and emotional consequences for teens and adults alike - especially where a picture is taken without knowledge, forwarded without consent, or used to bully and harass.For attorneys who counsel educational institutions, it is only a matter of time before they must grapple with sexting-related issues.These issues pose difficult challenges for school administrators and staff, especially where improper investigation can subject school personnel to prosecution for the same criminal offenses that teens risk by sexting.has sent sexually suggestive, nude or semi-nude "sext" messages by phone or otherwise.This article discusses the high-stakes legal issues raised by sexting and their implications for counsel to teens, parents, and schools.but even compliant individuals face the shame and scrutiny of public reporting. Michelle Manchir, , Chicago Tribune (posted March 18, 2010), online at A similar bill, HB 4583, passed the Illinois House on March 11.Beyond registering and reporting as sex offenders, students convicted of child pornography may also be bound by other restrictions that can significantly complicate their lives. Bland, , Arizona Republic (Aug 27, 2009) (cited in note 6) ("Lawmakers in Vermont, Utah and Ohio are making sexting a misdemeanor instead of a felony when the cases involve teenagers, and as long as the sender voluntarily transmitted the image."). Act of May 9, 2009, 2009 Vt Laws 58§ 4, to be codified at 13 VSA§ 2802b, online at Another slightly more punitive sexting bill, HB 5164, was still alive at presstime. Telephone conversation with Dave Haslett, Chief of the Illinois Attorney General’s High Tech Crimes Bureau (Sep 28, 2009). See Bassett, , The Telegraph (Jun 27, 2009) (cited in note 5) (Explaining that school districts are reviewing and amending policy to account for recent sexting behavior). Telephone conversation with Daniel Spillman, attorney for the Illinois Attorney General High Tech Crimes Bureau (May 13, 2009).
Some states have attempted to decriminalize sexting among teens, or at least reduce the offense from felony to misdemeanor. Legislators should consider drafting a narrow exception to sex offenses to prevent "innocent" teens from being charged with serious violations while maintaining liability for those who are guilty of actual child pornography - regardless of age. Until then, parents and schools may be better equipped to discipline and admonish sexting teens than are police and prosecutors. Teen sexting confronts attorneys and courts with new and complicated legal issues.Moreover, a sexting teen's social and legal problems often converge at the schoolhouse door.