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Every Teen a Sex Offender
October 7, 2009 permalink
Developing an interest in sex is part of the normal development of any teenager. While in past generations most communication between teens took place in private, or over private media such as the mail or the phone, much communication today is through electronic gadgets. The records left by these devices make just about every teen a child pornographer. The enclosed article is limited to Chambersburg Pennsylvania, but could apply nearly everywhere. If child pornography laws are not relaxed, every teenager will be tagged as a sex-offender, a label that turns victims into permanent pariahs, ineligible for most forms of employment or housing as well as making them targets for vigilante killing.
Chambersburg Area School District's student sexters may wear 'sex offender' label through adulthood
By KEITH PARADISE Staff writer
CHAMBERSBURG -- Law enforcement and Chambersburg Area School District officials are still trying to determine how many students were involved a recent rash of "sexting" images that were forwarded to students in the first weeks of school in what by law can be defined as child pornography.
And they're also trying to determine if the students should be charged with a crime.
Officials from the Chambersburg Police Department, the Franklin County district attorney's office and the school district conducted a news conference Tuesday morning to discuss the incidents. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photos and content in text messages and through e-mail.
Bret Beynon, Franklin County assistant district attorney who specializes in juvenile prosecution, said the only charges that would be applicable could be felony possession of child pornography, which could come with the classification of sex offender if found guilty. She said if the students involved were juveniles, the sentences would not have a minimum or maximum sentence if charges were filed and the students were found guilty.
However, they would remain on their public record for life and they would have to submit DNA to the Pennsylvania State Police database. "It would affect them for the rest of their lives," Beynon said.
Anyone older than 18 who was charged with the felony would have to register with the state's Megan's Law Web site for 10 years under current laws. Megan's Law alerts the public to the living and working arrangements of registered sex offenders.
Since the possible charge would be possession of child pornography, everyone involved could face the same charge whether they took the photograph, received it, or forwarded it. Beynon said a student who received a picture, immediately deleted it and notified authorities would not face charges. However, someone who received a photo and either saved or forwarded it to others could.
"Everybody could be on the hook for a felony," Beynon said.
Beynon said they are dealing with each photo on a case by case basis. Beynon also asked parents to be more proactive and monitor the cellular phone and Internet usage of their children.
"We are being very deliberate and everything has to be very well thought out," Beynon said.
Chambersburg Police Chief David Arnold said officers were called on Sept. 23 by CASD director of security T. Brett Hill about photos involving nudity circulated via digital technology. Since then, the police department, district attorney's office and school district are cooperating in an investigation.
"As we all know, cell phone use among teens has increased greatly in the last decade. While this technology can be useful in everyday life, it has the ability to be used for this purpose," Arnold said.
Arnold said he has asked the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Legislative Committee to look at the current laws and propose new legislation if it's warranted. Beynon said the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association is in favor of legislation that would diminish penalties for minors sending sexually explicit images. Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny County, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last month that he plans to introduce a bill this fall that would grade the crimes as misdemeanors or summary offenses so that anyone charged would be kept out of Megan's Law requirements.
Assistant Superintendent Eric Michael said that currently there are 28 students believed to be involved in the incident. However, the number could change as the investigation continues.
Beynon and Arnold also would not specify how many images have been distributed to this point or when the investigation would conclude.
According to a 2008 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20 percent of more than 1,200 teens surveyed had posted online or electronically transmitted sexually explicit photos of themselves.
Michael said school district officials are certain that none of the photographs were taken on school property, and school equipment was not used. Some of the photos could have been sent from student's phones while they were in school buildings, although the district prohibits students from using phones in school buildings during the class day.
Michael said that although cell phone use is banned, it's a difficult policy to police. "It used to be that students were going to the bathroom to smoke. Now they're going to the bathroom to text," he said.
Keith Paradise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-4811.
Source: Chambersburg Public Opinion
Addendum: Here is an opinion piece on these offenses: There is a fury and and sadness inside that I cannot express.