KANSAS CITY — Teenagers caught texting nude photos could now face misdemeanor charges instead of being listed as felons. The Kansas House passed a new bill unanimously.
As it stands now, if a teen sends a nude photo to another teen, it would be considered a felony. That means, in the eyes of the law, the child would fall under the same category as a child predator or someone creating child pornography.
Kansas Representative Ramon Gonzalez started working on House Bill 2018 almost five years ago. He says as teens have more and more access to cell phones, they’re making “inappropriate decisions” when sending nude photos to one another.
The current law would classify those teens as felons. Gonzalez said he doesn’t want to “criminalize a 12 or 13-year-old for stupidity,” making them a registered sex offender for the rest of their lives.
The bill passed Wednesday afternoon in a 123 to 0 vote.
John Douglass heads up security at the Shawnee Mission School District. He said, “We do see a lot of message, inappropriate message texting back and forth.” He warns teens, “Be cautious about what you put out there. Be cautious about what you think out there. It’s not an open diary.”
While he educates parents and teens about how to safely use social media, Douglass says the current law is too harsh, making felons of teens he says are “exploring,” which is different than sexual predators.
“It created an imbalance. You had children who were 16, 17, who were dealing with children who were 15 and 14, receiving very, very hard penalties,” Douglass said.
While those penalties could now be less severe, Douglass wants teens to think before the point, shoot, and click send.
“Once you put that picture out there, you have virtually given access and a key to your private life to every individual in the world. And it never goes away. And it cannot be recalled,” he cautioned.
The Kansas Senate is now working on its version of the bill, headed up by Senator Greg Smith from Overland Park. Those hearings continue Thursday.