Advocates, News Orgs Agree: Lampitt "Sexting" Law Is "Necessary", "Smart"; Gives Teens A "Needed Second Chance"

(CHERRY HILL)—A day after legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) to promote education over child pornography prosecutions in cases of teen “sexting” was signed into law, anti-“sexting” and anti-bullying advocates praised the measure. Assembly Bill 1561, now law, creates a diversionary program designed to educate teens on the dangers of “sexting” instead of automatically criminalizing the behavior.

“With advancing technology and smartphones bringing the world to kids’ fingertips, it’s important to educate teens who make a foolish decision, instead of labeling them as sex offenders and ruining their futures,” said Lampitt. “This law takes a common-sense approach and brings our laws into the 21st century.”

“Assemblywoman Lampitt’s law will help make sure that kids caught ‘sexting’ in New Jersey get the education they need, instead of being tagged as sex offenders,” said Allyson Pereira, an outspoken anti-“sexting” and anti-bullying advocate. “I’m proud to have worked with Assemblywoman Lampitt on this issue, and I hope this law becomes a model for states around the nation.”

Allyson Pereira, 22, is a resident of northern New Jersey. At age 16, Allyson engaged in “sexting”, sending a picture to her then-boyfriend which was later forwarded to the entire school. As a result of an impulsive teenage decision, Allyson faced overwhelming consequences—bullying, vandalism to her home, harassment, as well as problems with education and employment. As a result, Allyson became involved as a vocal anti-“sexting” advocate, traveling to schools to talk about the issue, speaking with a variety of national news outlets, and participating in MTV’s “A Thin Line” campaign against digital abuse.

“Pam Lampitt isn’t just an Assemblywoman, she’s also a mom,” said Noreen Pereira, Allyson’s mother, who also engages in educational advocacy on the issue. “She gets how important it is to make sure our laws keep up with technology. This is a compassionate, common-sense law that will give New Jersey teens who make a foolish decision hope for their future and a needed second chance.”

Under the bill, the state Attorney General, in consultation with the courts, will develop the educational program. This program will include information regarding the potential legal consequences of “sexting” as well as non-legal consequences—including emotional, employment, social, societal, and possible bullying consequences—of “sexting”.

The law takes effect on the first day of the seventh month following enactment.

What they’re saying about Lampitt’s ‘Sexting’ Legislation

The Record of Bergen County:

“We’re glad to see legislators working to clear these muddy legal waters...Lampitt noted ‘young people need to understand the ramifications of their actions but they shouldn’t necessarily be treated as criminals.’ We agree. Such an intervention would allow law-enforcement officials to address the seriousness of this bad behavior without adopting a blunt, prosecutorial approach. We want to stamp out sexting, not put generally law-abiding teenagers in jail. We support Lampitt’s proposal to add a new intervention to the mix.

(Source: The Record editorial: Not Smart Phone Use, 1/25/11)

Michael Smerconish:

“[On sexting], New Jersey is taking the bull by the horns. I like the approach being taken by Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt… Under this approach there would be an education process [for teens] instead of a rap sheet… [Lampitt’s proposal] makes sense to me.”

(Source: The Michael Smerconish Show, 1210 WPHT AM Philadelphia, 3/15/11)

Good Morning America:

“States like New Jersey and across the United States are grappling [with sexting] on a legislative level in terms of what to do…If a teen is caught and actually found guilty of [sexting], they then are labeled as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Now, there’s legislation…that may counter that in the coming months to put forward a counseling method for these teens as first offenders.”

(Source: Good Morning America, Sexting Gone Wild: Teen Sexting on Rise as Phones Get Smarter, Elizabeth Hasselbeck reporting, 3/22/11)

Bob Ingle:

“One [bill] that has some importance is from Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt. Under it, juveniles caught sending sexually explicit photographs via their cell phones to each other would not face criminal prosecution. Instead they get intense education about it and the ramifications. It’s called ‘sexting’ and it’s all the rage. Kids send each other pictures of themselves naked. As hard as it is for some of us to understand the appeal of sexting, kids shouldn’t be going to jail and be tagged as sexual predators because of a fad.”

(Source: Politics Patrol blog: About That Sexting, 3/13/11)

Gloucester County Times:

“Teens need to know that posting explicit photos on their own social networking pages is fraught with danger, since they never know when a ‘friend’ can be a predator. It could affect their future job prospects, too, if potential employers are looking…legislation like Lampitt’s is necessary.”

(Source: Gloucester County Times editorial: OK Bill to Teach Sexting Teens, 1/25/11)

Asbury Park Press:

“Teenagers aren’t known for carefully examining the consequences of their sometimes impulsive actions…[Lampitt’s] bill offers a reasonable alternative to charging some teens with crimes such as ‘distribution of child pornography’ as happens in many states…the bill might at least give some kids pause before taking the photo or sending it.”

(Source: Asbury Park Press editorial: “Sexting” Bill Sensible, 1/26/11)

Courier Post:

“We support the legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, that would allow minors caught ‘sexting’ the first time to avoid criminal prosecution if they complete a diversionary education program that they would have to pay for…This is smart legislation that ought to become law.”

(Source: Courier Post editorial: Don’t Penalize Sexting Victims, 3/22/11)

Burlington County Times:

“We believe this legislation is an excellent way to convey to first-time offenders the seriousness of their actions without saddling them with a criminal record…We urge the state Senate and the Governor to approve this bill. It’s an effective way to address a growing teen pastime and allow first-time offenders to learn from it. We want them to know they did something wrong, but we shouldn’t allow a youthful indiscretion to keep them from getting a job or entering college.”

(Source: Burlington County Times editorial: Forgetting to Look Before They Fall, 3/17/11)

Daily Record:

“Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt…the bill’s sponsor, says the focus should be teaching young people to change their behavior. That will be an uphill battle. It may be too much to ask teens to consider that an explicit photograph meant only for one person can get forwarded throughout the school and onto the Internet with devastating consequences. The sexting bill, at least, will make that impulsive action no longer a crime.”

(Source: Daily Record editorial: Decriminalizing Sexting, 1/28/11)

Monica Yant Kinney:

“In New Jersey, Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt (D., Camden) has won bipartisan support for a far more rational approach to this dumb use of smartphones. Rather than strengthen criminal penalties, her legislation… would steer most kids caught sexting into a diversionary educational program pummeling them with common sense.”

(Source: Philadelphia Inquirer column: No Need to Go Overboard on Teens’ Sexting, 2/8/11)

Jeff Edelstein:

“I need to…congratulate the New Jersey Legislature, as they’re about to do something right. There is a bill floating around that would decriminalize teen sexting...Right now it’s a crime. A real crime. It’s child pornography, punishable with jail time and a lifetime of being on the Megan’s Law list, which is insane.”

(Source: Trentonian, Jeff Edelstein column: Making Sexting Less Illegal is Right Move for NJ, 1/26/11)

Star-Ledger:

“Kids send nude pictures of themselves or others through their cell phones or social networking sites—a practice known as ‘sexting’—only to discover that if they get caught, they could be charged with crimes including child pornography…In an effort to get teens to understand the seriousness of sexting, Lampitt has introduced legislation to establish an educational program that would serve as an alternative to prosecution.”

(Source: Star Ledger Staff: N.J. Bill Creates Education Program on Criminal, Social Consequences of Sexting, 1/25/11)

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