The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa is coming to the defense of a 14 year-old girl caught up in a series of sexting cases involving Knoxville High School Students.
The ACLU says the girl sent photos of herself to a boy, who in turn, leaked them to his friends.
The ACLU now says the Marion County Attorney, Ed Bull, has threatened to file child pornography charges against the girl, identified as “Nancy Doe”.
The ACLU describes the pictures as the girl with a sports bra on and shorts, and a second photograph without the bra, but with the girl’s hair covering her breasts.
According to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the ACLU claims that if prosecuted for sending pictures described as no worse than “what you’d see in swimsuit ads” it would be unconstitutional.
“It’s a violation of the first amendment for the prosecutor to threaten to bring charges for protected speech and expression” said ACLU Legal Director Rita Bettis.
The ACLU has filed suit against Bull, requesting the court to prevent him from threatening charges or what he has suggested to avoid going to court.
The suit states Bull offered that if Nancy Doe signs an admission of guilt, takes classes on the dangers of sexting, does community service, and has access to her phone and laptop taken away for a set time, he won’t press charges.
The ACLU says this is an issue for the parents.
“What we’re asking the court to recognize that this is not a matter for the criminal law, that leaves open the rest of the world of possibilities of what the appropriate response from her parents might be, what the appropriate response from educators might be” said Bettis.
And Nancy Doe’s parents agree, her mother, identified as Jane Doe said in a statement:
“It’s our job to raise our daughter; not the county attorney’s. The response from the county attorney has been highly inappropriate and stigmatizing. And to charge her with sexual exploitation of herself is beyond bewildering”.
The ALCU also says that if a male were to send the same pictures, he would not be prosecuted, and as such violates the 14th amendment which guarantees equal protection under the law.
Meanwhile, therapists say this type of behavior has become more common across the country the more common it is show in the media.
“It gives individuals, somewhat, permission. If I’m seeing it in media or social media then maybe it’s ok for me to send photos” said Synergy Clinical Services Counselor Joby Holcomb.
Holcomb says that the situation, let alone being prosecuted for it, could damage a teen’s mental health at a critical age.
“It can be damaging, it can be extremely traumatic. That can have some very, pretty horrific consequences on an emotional and mental level” he said.
The ACLU hopes to have an initial hearing by the end of the year.
DES MOINES, Iowa – A Knoxville teenager and her parents are fighting back against the Marion County Attorney’s Office in a lawsuit over suggestive photos the teen sent to male classmate.
The ACLU of Iowa, which is representing the teen in the lawsuit, sent out a news release Friday morning releasing details of the case. The ACLU is also holding a noon news conference to discuss the case further.
The lawsuit is in response to the ACLU’s claim that the Marion County Attorney’s Office is trying to threaten the teen with criminal charges for the “suggestive” photos.
The ACLU says, “The two photos at issue don’t show any nudity. In one of the photographs, she is wearing a sports bra and boy shorts. In the other, she’s in boy shorts with her hair covering her breasts.”
According to the ACLU, the county attorney has threatened the teen with charges of sexual exploitation of a minor — herself — charges that could mean time in prison and being added to the sex offender registry. The alternative offered by the county attorney would force the teen to admit guilt and enroll in a pre-trial diversion program, among other punishments.
The teen’s parents argue those measures would do more harm than good.
The pictures came to light back in April during an investigation at Knoxville High School, when students were found to be circulating nude photos.
We’ll bring you more on this story as it develops.