Let’s hear it for an unusually sensible police response to a case of high school sexting.
The Nashua, New Hampshire, police received word in May that 10 or 20 students at Bishop Guertin High School had been snapping and swapping sexts.
But then, rather than arresting these kids for making child porn, or threatening to register them as sex offenders, the police did something outrageously reasonable.
They opted not to charge any of them.
As Nashua’s Lieutenant Robert Page told WMUR TV:
“To begin with, the laws of child pornography were developed to target and prosecute child predators, not students and juveniles who make bad decisions,” Page said.
Police said they have spoken to all the students who were involved and their parents. They also wiped the photos off the phones.
The police went on to tell the students that what they put on social media never completely disappears, so from now on, lay off the inappropriate photos. That’s precisely the response I think most of us would want from the cops if our own kids ever sent or received a sext. (Which, if they’re under 23, they probably did, by the way.)
Now compare the perspective and compassion of those Nashua, NH, police to the actions in any number of other teen sexting cases. For instance:
- The 2014 Virginia case where cops sought and obtained a warrant to give a teen boy an erection so they could compare it to a sext they had gotten their hands on (as it were).
- The case in Minnesota where a 14-year-old girl sent a racy picture of herself to a boy she liked, and was charged with distributing child porn. Yes, that made her both the exploited child and the nefarious pornographer.
- The Rhode Island case where a girl, 13, sent a boy, 14, “inappropriate” pictures of herself, which the boy inappropriately shared. Lots of inappropriate behavior going on. But how inappropriate? He was charged with distributing child porn, she was charged with disseminating indecent material.
I vote to have Page make a video for the National Association of Police Organizations saying just what he said to WMUR:
“The laws of child pornography were developed to target and prosecute child predators, not students and juveniles who make bad decisions.”
Or maybe we should needlepoint some police station pillows with that statement. Or make t-shirts. Or simply repeat it over and over until law enforcement realizes the American public does not want its children being treated like child pornographers simply because they’ve got a cell phone and some hormones both turned on at the same time.