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Overzealous Law Enforcement Strikes Again

Terry L. Mitchell, American Chronicle, January 19, 2009

Recently, six teenagers at a Pennsylvania high school were caught participating in a new fad called 'sexting.' Named as an obvious takeoff of texting, it is a practice in which one sends nude or semi-nude photographs of oneself, via a cell phone, to a peer - usually of the opposite sex. In this particular case, three girls had been taking and sending nude photographs of themselves to three boys. Besides being suspended from school, these teens, incredibly enough, now face much more serious consequences.

The girls are being charged with manufacturing and disseminating child pornography. The boys face charges of possession of child porn. All six of these students are minors, under the age of 18. Granted, these kids were participating in lewd and immoral acts on school grounds and were well deserving of their suspensions.

However, bringing child porn charges against them is completely ludicrous. Child pornography laws were created to protect innocent children from exploitation by adults, not to protect horny teenagers from each other. While it might be well within the letter of law to charge these teens with child pornography, it is clearly a perversion of the spirit of law to even consider doing so.

How many teen boys would rebuff a teen girl's attempt to send them a risqué  picture of herself? Assuming the girl is not one who has been beaten with an ugly stick (to borrow an insult from Fred Sanford), I doubt that many teen boys - even the most moral and well-behaved - would be able to resist. There were no cell phones when I was in high school, but I can imagine that I would not have mounted much resistance in a similar situation.

If convicted of the charges brought against them, these six teens would likely be stigmatized for life. Each would be labeled with our modern-day scarlet letter - sex offender. This label is an albatross around one's neck that is difficult, if not impossible, to remove. In many states, it means they would have to register as sex offenders and then be constantly monitored by law enforcement officials in addition to being restricted in where they could live, work, and visit. All of this after possibly serving prison sentences. And for what? The girls for being stupid and the boys for being - well - boys! What a heavy price to pay for such 'offenses'!

It's as if we are living in some silly Islamic theocracy instead of the United States of America. This is the kind of overzealous law enforcement that often makes the U.S. the laughing stock of the rest of the civilized world. I can just imagine their laughter right now. It would indeed be funny if it wasn't so sad. It's right up there with many of those asinine "zero tolerance" stances and other breaches of common sense. One can only hope and pray that reasonable judges will intervene in this case and spare these kids a life of hell and our nation further humiliation.

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