Last week, the students and staff at Ridgewood High School in New Jersey were rocked by a sexting scandal when inappropriate photos started spreading around the student body.
This prompted an investigation by school officials and law enforcement. The administration soon discovered that several students, mostly female freshmen, had been sending sexually revealing photos of themselves to male upperclassmen.
The photos uncovered by the school administration depicted naked and semi-naked students, some in real or simulated sexual poses. The photos had been circulated using Snapchat— a smartphone photo-sharing application that’s designed to delete images within seconds of being received. An unidentified male student, apparently waiting for the images, proceeded to take a screen shot before the photos disappeared and uploaded them to the online Instagram gallery. A video depicting two girls dancing and simulating sex acts was also posted online. The Ridgewood sexting scandal is just one in a spate of similar incidents at schools across the country, many of which involve students using the Snapchat app.
Incidents like these can become serious since students involved in the sending, receiving, forwarding, and posting of these pictures could face child pornography charges. However, despite conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter, law enforcement officials and prosecutors granted students a grace period set to expire on Monday morning during which students could delete the sexually explicit materials from their electronic devices in order to avoid prosecution. Despite the threat, some officials have publicly stated that even students who do not delete the images by the deadline will probably not face criminal charges due to a recent New Jersey law that softened the penalties for this type of sexting.
Unfortunately, under Georgia’s sex offense laws there is currently no reduced punishment for “sexting” by teenagers. If prosecuted for “sexting”, a teen can be charged with either the possession of child pornography under O.C.G.A. § 16-12-100 or for computer/electronic pornography under O.C.G.A. § 16-12-100.2. A child under the age of 17 would likely be prosecuted in juvenile court while anyone who is 17 or older would have to be prosecuted as an adult. If prosecuted as an adult, a teen could face felony charges which could result in a mandatory prison sentence as well as sex offender registration.
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