November 8, 2010
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AUSTIN (KXAN) – It happens every day and throughout the day. A survey from the Cyberbullying Research Center says one in five teens have sent sexually explicit messages to someone and one in three teens have received one.
In Austin Independent School District , school leaders said although district policy and the student handbook address sexting, it is still a growing problem. Just recently, leaders said, a middle school student sent a picture to her boyfriend. He shared it with a friend who then shared it with many more students. It was a devastating and embarrassing situation that lawmakers want to prevent.
“Our laws have not kept up with our technology and frankly they haven’t kept up with our teenagers in some instances,” said Sen. Kirk Watson. “The truth is our technology has changed what it means to be a child and an adolescent in Texas.”
Watson and Attorney General Greg Abbott are co-writing a bill making sexting a misdemeanor crime. The punishment for teen sexting could be probation and getting their phones taken away.
“The laws, as they are drafted, are really drafted to address adult abuse of minors, but they result in ill-fitting penalties for minors to create and distribute images,” said Watson.
The current law covers child pornography as a felony. School leaders said a bill with consequences is something they will support.
“I think this is going to be a very, very important and strong step in assisting us in offering better, more meaningful consequences for an offense that’s still very, very serious,” said Mel Waxler, Austin Independent School District legal counsel.