In Colorado, a group of teens — some in high school and some in eighth grade — involved in recent sexting-related incidents may be charged as sex offenders for child pornography, according to the Washington Post. The state has seen a series of cases of nude photos circulating around the social media accounts of three different junior high and high schools: K-8 school Bear Creek, Pine Creek High School and Challenger Middle School.
So far, no charges have been made. However, the latter two schools are sending their cases to the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, which could end up charging the students as felony sex offenders, according to the Washington Post.
The state is particularly aggressive when it comes to sexting involving minors, considering it a level child pornography offense. Those charged with this felony must register as sex offenders, and it could potentially earn them a lifetime criminal record, according to the Denver Post. Lawmakers have been trying to pass a bill that would lighten the charge to a "misdemeanor or petty offense" for minors, but it was rejected by the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee.
The bill was first drafted following a large sexting scandal involving Canon City High School, in which a "significant portion" of its 1,000 students were involved with circulating photos, according to the Denver Post.
"To say that this is a victimless situation is just not a fact," Yeulin Willet, a state representative who co-sponsored the bill, told the Washington Post. "These images get stolen, hacked, now they end up in the hands of thousands or more via digital media, and now you have a suicidal young girl. What started out as a consensual situation, the problem is the permanent damage. It lasts forever."
Some argued that the bill didn't do enough for the victims, that it was still too harsh on kids and that it wouldn't stop the common practice of sexting, which can be consensual. For the bill to stay alive, its supporters would have to make a motion to have it re-assigned to another committee by Friday.
"While we hope parents and schools are educating kids about the risks of [sexting], about the risks of where pictures could end up and the fact that they might exist on the internet forever, we don't want it to be criminalized at that level," Jennifer Eyl, the director of family stability programs at the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, said, according to the Washington Post.