Another legal action over the practice of sexting has emerged. Only this time it is the alleged “sexters” who are suing state prosecutors on the grounds that criminalizing sexting infringes on their First Amendment rights.
Last month, three high school students in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania faced the threat of being charged with the possession/dissemination of child pornography, when their school confiscated student cell-phones and found pictures of them in states of semi-undress.
The photographs at issue showed two of the girls from the waist up wearing nothing but opaque bras; another girl was photographed emerging from a shower, wearing a towel wrapped around her torso, just under her breasts.
The prosecutor offered the three women, along with approximately 20 of their classmates whose photos had also been found on confiscated cell-phones, a deal—if the girls completed a 6 to 9 month re-education class on “what it means to be a girl in today’s society” at a cost of $100 to each of the girls’ families, charges would be dropped.
The prosecutor indicated that the girls had to complete the re-education program to his satisfaction and submit to periodic drug-tests during this probationary period. Anyone who chose not to take the deal would be brought up on charges of possessing/disseminating child pornography, and if convicted would face having a felony conviction on their record, and be required to register as sex offenders for the next 10 years.
While many parents accepted the prosecutor’s deal—three families, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, brought suit this week on behalf of their daughters, contending that the prosecutor’s actions constituted a violation of the teens’ right to free expression under the First Amendment.
Good for them.