UPDATE: Senator Merritt just tweeted: "My bill, SB 224 Sexting by Minors just passed committee unanimously."
It's not often that I give kudos to a Republican - especially Indiana state legislators who tend to trend toward the anti-sex religious fundamentalist flavor. My own state senator, Jim Merritt, is trying to lead the state forward into the new era, but so far hasn't seen much traction. Merritt is trying to define "sexting" and find a punishment more "appropriate" for teens busted sending dirty pics to each other. The bill has been tabled in committee "for further study."
SB0224 - Electronic dissemination of indecent material. Provides that a child commits a delinquent act if the child creates, transmits, or possesses a photograph, video, or other material that shows a minor in a state of nudity. Creates a defense to child exploitation, possession of child pornography, and dissemination of material harmful to minors if the defendant is a child, the offense constitutes a delinquent act, and: (1) the photograph, video, or other material does not show a child less than thirteen (13) years of age; or (2) the defendant did not knowingly or intentionally transmit the photograph, video, or other material to ten or more persons.
Indiana law currently requires the prosecutor to file felony charges against the minor (a conviction would require the teen to register as a sexual offender) or look the other way. This has been brought into stark relief in a recent case of a substitute teacher who sexted with one of his female students before having sex with her. The proposed legislation would downgrade the felony charge to "delinquent act" status, but it's still a crime.
"It has to have some level of crime in order to have the rehabilitative aspect to it," said Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who is supporting the bill. "But it's certainly not something that would follow them for the rest of their lives."
"He's the predator in this case, not the female student, but, technically, she's in violation. Technically, we could charge her with a felony," he said.
While it's refreshing to see a Hoosier Republican who's solution to a problem surrounding a sexual issue isn't to simply ban something and hope the problem goes away, I still wonder what message we're sending by telling teenagers that the sight of their naked body (or someone else's) is something worth punishing. I can understand the reasoning why you don't want children sending naked pics of themselves around the web, but at what point do we stop to acknowledge healthy sexual exploration and adolescent flirting?
I'll be interested to see what Projectors think about this. What's the solution to sexting among teens? Or is one needed?