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No sexting at school

I guess I’m a little surprised this wasn’t already against the rules.

Students in the Houston Independent School District soon could face punishment if they are caught engaging in [sexting] — which, for those not of the wireless generation, means sending racy texts or photos via cell phone or e-mail. On Thursday, the HISD school board is expected to revise the Student Code of Conduct to officially ban sexting.

“It’s a response to an issue that principals brought up,” said Hans Graff, HISD’s assistant general counsel. “A girlfriend sends a picture to a boyfriend, who sends it to a friend, and pretty soon it’s all over the school.

“To the extent it’s an issue,” he continued, “we want to put kids on notice we’re not going to tolerate it.”

Graff acknowledges that policing the behavior will be difficult.

“I don’t see us wanting to go look at kids’ text messages,” he said. “It’s just if it’s brought to administrators’ attention, this (policy) is there.”

[…]

The possible punishments for students caught sexting range from a mandatory conference with a parent and administrator to suspension for up to three days to placement in an alternative education program.

In addition, students’ cell phones will be confiscated, and images suspected to violate criminal laws will be forwarded to law enforcement, according to the proposed revisions to the Student Code of Conduct.

While I certainly understand where the principals are coming from, that last paragraph concerns me, given that anyone who is arrested for this behavior could be branded a sex offender for life, which is way out of proportion to the crime in many cases. We are fortunate in that the Harris County DA’s office is reasonably enlightened on the matter, but it would be nice to not have to rely on that. I hope there are guidelines that will help the principals make informed choices about what really constitutes criminal behavior here, lest some of them adopt a “report it all and let the courts sort it out” attitude.

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