How well teachers can handle the problem may depend on whether or not school districts embrace social media and technology. William Kist, associate professor for teaching, learning and curriculum studies at Kent State University, said the university offers conversation models to future teachers on how to handle things like sexting.
What is perhaps more interesting is teens sext. Sexting in high school is intertwined with popularity, pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend, and bullying. It is the last that disturbs me the most. In many cases, the result of high school sexting is the wide-spread circulation of the photo through the school, which leads to ridicule and especially cyber-bullying by classmates. Specifically, Jesee Logan of Cincinnati, Ohio, sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend, who then forwarded it to friends, who then forwarded it to the rest of her school. She was subjected to intense public humiliation and bullying at school to the extent that she committed suicide. Because Jesse was eighteen, even the misplaced sexting-is-child-pornography policy couldn’t help or hurt her.
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Brunswick is proactive about social media issues because of past problems. High school students Anthony Gill, 17, and Matthew Homyk, 14, in January after other students said the boys were allegedly bullied on social media.
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Some school districts, such as Brunswick and Lakewood, have embraced the responsibility, encouraging teachers to use social media as a classroom tool and talking about sexting in technology classes. While others, such as Solon and Beachwood, believe such instruction is a private affair that falls within parents’ realm.
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In Solon, in March that a group of high school students were sharing nude photos of freshman girls. And though school officials said they found no evidence, they investigated as social media exploded with talk about the allegations.
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If a student approaches a teacher with a nude photo of a minor, the teacher cannot view the photo. But if a student approaches a teacher about sexting, the school needs proof to take legal action.
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Parents are unhappy with the survey results, and they are even more unhappy relating the word “felony” to their children. And that’s not the only problem. These charges create a classic example of what is becoming a common issue in today’s legislature: technology outpacing the law. How is it reasonable to take a law designed in 1982 to punish adults for sexually abusing children and profiting from it and adapting it to a 2009 case where a stupid sixteen year old girl thought she’d be cool if she sent a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend? Teens are not children, nor are they adults. Children are protected because they cannot knowingly give their consent, but teens can and do. Under the current policy, that sixteen year old girl and her boyfriend can be charged with sex offender felonies. This policy creates a situation where these teens are both innocent and guilty, victim and offender.
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The media blames sexting for Jesse’s death when it should be blamed on harassment by her peers. Sexting has opened new possibilities for bullying and harassment, an old problem and the curse of teen life. If anything, Jesse’s story proves that sexting is a serious issue with complicated consequences on many levels. It deserves to be addressed on a case by case basis, ranging from malicious bullying to tipsy Valentine’s Day flirting.