The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:
The law is supposed to protect our children from 21st century technology, but its unintended consequences are dangerous. If we don’t make some changes that reflect reality, too many of our kids are going to graduate from high school with an undeserved felony record.
Despite adults’ eternal complaints about “kids these days,” the fact is, today’s kids aren’t all that different from what the rest of us were like as teenagers. That includes discovering their sex drives. What’s really different is the way they can combine that with the technology in their pockets.
Nearly 40 years ago, rock singer Bob Seger sang about the “night moves … out in the back of my ‘60 Chevy.” Anyone who heard the song knew what it was about.
And the kids who got caught exploring their sexuality, as most eventually do, got grounded, lost the keys to the Chevy or otherwise faced parental wrath.
Today, cellphones often play a role in those explorations – thus “sexting,” emailing sexually revealing photos. Sexting can lead to felony charges, even if it’s between consenting teens. Conviction can put a kid’s name on the sex-offender registry for life. Between that and the felony record, his life is over before it began, because in a moment of lust, he shared too much of himself with his girlfriend.
Jack Britt High School’s quarterback, Cormega Zyon Copening, is charged with doing just that. He is suspended from playing, pending resolution of charges filed against him in February, including second-degree and third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. His girlfriend faces fewer but similar charges. Both were 16 when they were charged. The charges are felonies that can include prison time.
If they had just had sex, instead of exchanging sexually oriented cellphone photos, they would face no charges, save, perhaps, for those imposed by their parents.
The detective who brought the charges wrote in a report that Copening “is a good student and athlete with a supportive family. The photographs were between he and a girlfriend. Recommend release to parents.”
If those photos had been widely distributed, or had been taken by an adult who had no business in a sexual relationship with a child, that’s a matter worthy of the courts. But this was “sexting” between a boyfriend and girlfriend. The penalty could ruin two lives.
The law is supposed to protect our kids, not victimize them. Rewrite it so it does.
Tribune Content Agency