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"How can I ask her to compromise her values and write this essay, when she didn't do anything?" Although the district attorney maintains the program is voluntary, the letter he sent to parents notes, "Charges will be filed against those who do not participate." Seventeen of the 20 students caught in the sexting incidents have completed the 14 hours of classes.But sending nude or seminude pictures, a phenomenon known as sexting, is a fast-growing trend among teens.The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy, a private nonprofit group whose mission is to protect children, and Cosmo Girl.com, surveyed nearly 1,300 teens about sex and technology.It is surprising to us as parents, but for teens it's part of their culture." In many states, like Florida, if a person is convicted of a crime against children, it automatically triggers registration to the sex offender registry.Thirty-eight states include juvenile sex offenders in their sex offender registries. Most states allow public access to sex offender registries via the Internet and anyone with a computer can locate registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods.
There is no hiding for Alpert, whose neighbors, he says, all know. If you type my name into the search engine online, you will find me." As sexting incidents pop up around the country, prosecutors are trying to come to terms with how these cases should be handled.
"You will find me on the registered sex offender list next to people who have raped children, molested kids, things like that, because I sent child pornography," says Alpert in disbelief, explaining, "You think child pornography, you think 6-year-old, 3-year-old little kids who can't think for themselves, who are taken advantage of.
That really wasn't the case." Alpert's attorney Larry Walters agrees and he's fighting to get Alpert removed from Florida's sex offender registry. "Sexting is treated as child pornography in almost every state and it catches teens completely offguard because this is a fairly natural and normal thing for them to do.
"I wasn't trying to be sexual," she says, "I was having fun with my friends at a sleepover, taking pictures, dancing to music." The picture recently surfaced on a student's cell phone and Marissa's mom, Mary Jo Miller, was contacted by Skumanick.
"He told me that he had a full nude photo of my daughter," says Mary Jo Miller, who calls the picture innocent.