30 Child. Legal Rts. J. 60 (2010)
Picture This: Legal Consequences of Teen Sexting, an Interview with Laurie Gray, Former Deputy Prosecutor of Allen County, Indiana

handle is hein.journals/clrj30 and id is 336 raw text is: 60

ior toward others. Furthermore, Shariff argues that the
Model illustrates that a reactive approach to dealing
with cyberbullying (i.e., suspensions, expulsions, cen-
sorship of student expression and use of technologies)
results in indirect condoning of discriminatory attitudes
by not directly confronting the issue through educa-
tion and discussion of people's differences. Moreover,
she argues that a reactive approach generally reduces
student safety because it encourages racism, sexism,
homophobia and other forms of discrimination by not
allowing such frank discussions to take place.
Shariff concludes that reactive and positivist ap-
proaches to combating cyberbullying, such as censoring
student web sites and emails, are not the most effective
means. In fact, she argues that such school discipline
policies are least successful in preventing cyberbullying
behavior since they do not directly address the underly-
ing issue of intolerance. In short, cyberbullying cannot
be blamed solely on the students. Shariff believes that a
reconsideration of the school climate and the values and
beliefs imparted in the confines of an educational envi-
ronment should promote acceptance and respect among
students. She maintains that schools have a mandated
responsibility to educate students, not punish them. Ul-
timately, Shariff proposes that educators should allow
students to engage with technology in the classroom,
but teachers should educate students on where the line
should be drawn in terms of what is ethically, socially
and legally acceptable.
Shaheen Shariff, Confronting Cyber-Bullying: What
Schools Need to Know to Control Misconduct and Avoid
Legal Consequences (2009).
Picture This: Legal
Consequences of Teen
Sexting, an Interview
with Laurie Gray,
Former Deputy
Prosecutor of Allen
County, Indiana
By Rita O'Connor
In the wrong hands, an ordinarily harmless tool can eas-
ily become a weapon-one that may hit the target as

well as backfire. It may be difficult to imagine that a
device as useful and necessary for safety as a cell phone
could be used as such a weapon. When used inappro-
priately, however, cell phones can become sexting
weapons used for pleasure, pain and sometimes the
prosecution of the sender as well as the recipient.
Sexting involves sending sexually explicit or
nude photos of oneself or others via cell phone. Al-
though meant to be a private communication, the pho-
tos can be easily transmitted to public websites and an
infinite number of cell phones by pranksters or jilted
lovers. An unexpected anomaly occurs when teens sext:
the victim, often the individual featured in the photos
who sends the original sext, may be charged with the
same crime as the initial recipient or others who post
the photos on public websites. Adolescents often do not
comprehend that this flirtatious activity may be pros-
ecuted as a felony and result in their inclusion on a sex
offender registry, in some cases for up to twenty-five
The laws invoked to prosecute sexting predate this
activity and were enacted to address child exploitation,
child pornography and obscenity, but not adolescent
behavior influenced by bad judgment. In many states,
laws pertaining to images of naked minors have not
been updated as quickly as technology has evolved.
And therein lies the problem.
Laurie Gray, who was a Deputy Prosecuting Attor-
ney in Allen County, Indiana, for ten years believes that
the laws used to punish teen sexters send double mes-
sages. In Indiana, Gray says, A sixteen-year-old can
legally engage in sexual activity with anyone who is
not a family member or person in authority, but cannot
photograph it on a cell phone and legally transmit it.
Furthermore, she states that in Indiana engaging in sex-
ual acts with minors under the age of fourteen is child
molestation, but minors age fourteen and above can le-
gally engage in some consensual sexual acts. Gray asks,
If it's not illegal for them to ... engage in sexual acts,
should it be illegal for them to take or send naked pic-
tures of themselves?
As the deputy in charge of reviewing and making
charging decisions for all juvenile sex offenses in Allen
County, Gray used a common-sense approach when
examining sexting cases. The situations usually in-
volved teens photographing themselves in the nude and
sending the pictures to a boyfriend or girlfriend. Gray
says that while sexting is technically illegal, it should
not be considered criminal unless an adult is taking and
disseminating lewd pictures of a child. However, she
also believes that if the sexting behavior seems to be
particularly malicious or part of a predatory pattern
then criminal charges should be considered. Gray notes

Children's Legal Rights Journal

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