EXCLUSIVE: Ridgewood Schools Superintendent Daniel Fishbein may not be able to pursue criminal action against students caught sharing nude photos online, despite threats to do so, Bergen County’s top lawman confirmed this morning.
“I don’t think he’s familiar with the new law,” Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , referring to a September 2011 state statute that requires New Jersey juveniles caught “sexting” to take education courses.
“You have it right,” the prosecutor said of a story first posted on CLIFFVIEW PILOT Wednesday night ( SEE: Ridgewood High School nude photos: Not so fast, district officials ).
As the article explains, the 18-month old law is specifically intended to prevent anyone under 18 from being prosecuted in Family Court as delinquents the first time that they are caught passing images — either via cell phone, email or Internet post.
(Those 18 and over continue to face possible criminal prosecution as adults.)
In this case, images of two female students were screen-captured and posted on Instagram after being sent through the Snapchat app.
Fishbein said authorities are providing an “amnesty” period: After 7 a.m. Monday, “any student found to have created, transmitted or possessed an illegal image/movie may be charged with … serious offenses,” he said.
These include “the possession and/or transmission of sexually revealing or explicit images, or any materials of that nature” involving underaged teens, which the superintendent said “constitute the very serious crimes of possession and transmission of child pornography.”
Fishbein hasn’t returned phone or email messages from CLIFFVIEW PILOT the past two days seeking clarification on the apparent conflict the threat has with state law.
As the website first reported, the state-sponsored educational program became an alternative to prosecution once Gov. Christie signed the statute into law in September 2011.
It came in response to school officials and prosecutors nationwide cracking down on kids caught passing potentially pornographic pics. In one case, a 14-year-old Clifton girl was arrested on kiddie porn charges after uploading nude photos of herself. A judge sentenced her to probation and counseling.
The objective of the 2011 statute is to create “a nuanced approach to the issue, one that recognizes that kids will do foolish things, while also creating a serious mechanism to address the problem,” state Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, one of the measure’s co-sponsors, said at the time. READ MORE….
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