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Opening Arguments

Felony texting

When I first heard about "sexting," I thought, well, it's just a high-tech version of what we did in high school -- telling off-color jokes, passing around dirty pictures and all of that other racy stuff. But it's really another one of those oh-these-kids-today! extremes:

It primarily involves high school and even middle school students. "Basically what they're doing is distributing pornography," said Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards.

It's a text message with an attachment; as you probably guessed, that attachment is of something sexual... whether it be sexual parts or a sexual act.

The story sort of dances around what it really is -- not just attachments "of something sexual" -- it's something sexual involving photos of the kids themselves, usually nudes or semi nudes in the girls' case and often closeups of genitals in the boys' case. A whole new level for flirting, or harassment, as the case may be.

The story also just touches lightly on something other stories are clearer about -- some of these kids are facing serious felony charges of the sort usually reserved for adult sexual offenders:

These cases do pose a dilemma, concedes Wes Weaver, the principal at Licking Valley High School, where the Ohio girl attends school.

He agrees that pornography charges or other felonies are not appropriate, noting that "the laws have not caught up to technology."

But he says there has to be some way to educate students and their parents about the harm these photos can do — and the fact that, once they're out there, they often get widely circulated. Days before his staff discovered the girl's nude photos, the county prosecutor had been at the school to warn students against sexting.

I'm not sure about the "laws have not caught up with technology" part -- that's an ongoing issue in almost every area of our lives these days. But I suspect he's right about felony charges not being the right way to handle it.