California Sexting Law, SB919, Would Allow Schools To Expel Students

A controversial bill that makes student sexting an expellable offense was approved last week by the California Assembly Education Committee.

SB919, a proposed amendment to the California Education Code,
"the sending or receiving of sexually explicit pictures or video by means of an electronic act."
, the bill would only allow schools to expel students caught sexting:
  • On school grounds
  • Going to or from school
  • During lunch period regardless of whether on or off campus
  • During or in transit to or from a school sponsored activity.

The bill will expand upon previous powers granted to schools to prevent bullying.

The measure is just the latest in a series of anti-sexting measures that have caught on in several states. The AP previously reported that under another proposed bill, "New Jersey teenagers caught texting or posting sexually explicit photos online could avoid prosecution under a measure that would give first-time offenders the chance to complete a diversionary program."

Rhode Island, Florida and about 20 other states have also reviewed and considered bills that would tweak penalties for teen sexting. Florida's legislators decided to charge teens for a $60 fine and community service if caught sexting.

Data from a 2008 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy survey reveals that 21 percent of teenagers admitted to sending or posting nude or semi-nude photos to someone else, as did 33 percent of all young adults. Sexually explicit text messages are even more widespread, with 39 percent of all teens reporting sending them and 48 percent reporting receiving them. The numbers are even higher among young adults: 59 percent report sending and 64 percent report receiving. For teenagers, 15 percent admitted to sending sexually explicit images to people they only knew online, and 44% of teens admitted to sharing explicit materials they had been sent with others.

SB919's sponsor and author Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) decried the current state of affairs in Education Week, stating: "Sexting is now a form of relationship currency for many youths and goes far beyond what passing of notes was when I was in school."

SB919 still needs the approval of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, agreement on amendments in the Senate and the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown to become law.