Protecting our children by turning them into felons

There is a growing group in the United States that is facing an increasing number of charges for creating and distributing pornography and contributing to child abuse but it isn’t who you think it is. As exampled by three cases going to trial in Pennsylvania this section of our society is our very own children. These type of charges are all being based around something that is getting the catchy buzzword of – sexting and it would appear that it is more of a common practice among young girls than we realize.

For those of you who might not know what sexting is here’s a quick little primer. Sexting is the act of taking a picture of yourself nude or semi-nude with your camera phone and then sending that picture to whoever you want. Normally this is suppose to be only between dating partners but as the case of the young girl in Cincinnati who hung herself after the picture she took of herself made it past her boyfriend and was spread around the school it can end up getting out of control.

Now I am pretty sure we all agree – at least those of us who are parents – that this isn’t exactly what we would like our little girls; or boys, to be doing but does this mean that they should be charged and prosecuted as child abusers and pornographers? An action that will end up with them having a felony conviction on their record for life and not just any felony but that of being a sexual offender.

Well this is what District Attorney George P. Skumanick in Pennsylvania wants to do to three girls who were caught sexting after their camera phones were confiscated by their school during an investigation by the school after boys at the school were caught with pictures of girls who had been sexting them.

At issue in the Tunkhannock case are two photos depicting the three girls. One photo of Marissa Miller and Grace Kelly shows them two years ago at age 13 lying side by side while one talks on the phone and the other makes a peace sign with her fingers, according to the ACLU complaint. The two are photographed from the waist up and are wearing white opaque bras. A second photo shows a girl referred to in the court document as “Jane Doe” photographed outside a shower with a towel wrapped around her waist. Her breasts are bared.

Last year, Tunkhannock school officials discovered that male students had been trading these and other photos on their phones. Officials confiscated the phones and turned them over to county prosecutors who began a criminal investigation.

Skumanick then threatened to charge the three girls with producing child porn unless their parents agree to place them on a six-month probation and send them to a five-week, 10-hour education program to discuss why what they did was wrong and what it means to be a girl in today’s society. The girls also must agree to subject themselves to drug testing.

Skumanick told an assembly of students that possessing inappropriate images of minors could be prosecuted under state child porn laws. Anyone convicted under the laws faces a possible seven year sentence and a felony conviction on their record. Under a state sex offender law, they must also register as a sex offender for 10 years and have their name and photo posted on the state’s sex offender website — the latter requirement will include juvenile offenders when the law is amended later this year.

Source: Threat Level

Granted these type of actions might not be the smartest thing for girls to be doing but I find the threats and bullying of the District Attorney far more reprehensible than anything these kids have done. The fact is that the world our children are use to to isn’t the same one we are living in. For them there is nothing wrong in what they have done – their world has a different set of morality judgments being made, just as mine or yours were different than our parents.

Should the kids be spoken to about the danger of what they are doing – from our points of view; which is radically different than theirs – you betcha but that is the responsibility of the parents not something that some dickhead looking for re-election an a couple of months can make headlines out of. As far as I am concerned Skumanick has abused his position of power by literally blackmailing parents into forcing their children into state sanctioned behavior training.

According to the Threat Level post the ACLU has stepped in to defend the three girls and their parents as well as filing a lawsuit against the District Attorney

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is representing the girls and their parents. In its lawsuit — filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania — the organization charges that the prosecutor violated the girls’ First Amendment rights. The lawsuit says the photos do not constitute child pornography under Pennsylvania’s criminal code since they depict no sexual activity and do not display the pubic area of the girls’ bodies.

“Skumanick’s threatened prosecution chills Plaintiff’s First Amendment right of expression, causing them concern about whether they may photograph their daughters, or whether the girls may allow themselves to be photographed, wearing a two-piece bathing suit,” the ACLU wrote.

The lawsuit also claims the demand that the parents agree to place their girls in an education program violates the parents’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to direct the upbringing of their own children.

According to the ACLU filing, Skumanick told Miller’s parents that the photo of their daughter constituted child pornography because she and her friend were posed “provocatively.” When lawyers for the parents asked for a copy of the photos that would be used to charge their children, Skumanick reportedly refused on grounds that he would be committing a crime by sharing child porn.

Personally I think the DA should hand in his resignation and let parents get back to being parents; or perhaps he should be far more diligent in sending actual pedophiles to jail instead of making political hay out of natural childhood curiosity and exploration.

[photo courtesy of Threat Level]