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Oshkosh considers new ordinance for teenage 'sexting' charges

Oshkosh and surrounding communities may be changing how handle sexting charges with young kids in middle and high school.  City leaders, along with several law enforcement agencies in Winnebago county, are working on a new ordinance that could help protect minors who are caught in the act.

"Once these things get out there in the Cybershpere, there's no bringing them back," said Assistant Principal, Ryan Peterson, at Oshkosh West High School. 

The administration at this high school are concened about 'sexting,' a common practice since the dawn of cell phones and social media of sending explicit images and messages on electronic devices.

"A student may share something with a boyfriend or a girlfriend where they think that there is one person that's going to be the audience of that image, and like anything, these things quickly spread," said Peterson.

That's why local high schools in our area are educating the students on the dangers of sexting.

Peterson says, "Kids at that age do not have the ability to really rationally think through their choices and think about the long term impact of what their doing."

When a student at West High School is caught sexting, it is immediately referred to the Oshkosh Police Department and the school's liaison officer.  

As of right now, current law states that students will face criminal charges.  According to Oshkosh Police, charges can range from disorderly conduct to distribution of child pornography, a class I felony.

They could face up to 3.5 years of confinement and/or a $10,000 fine.

But a proposed ordinance in Winnebago County looks to change that, and if passed, could give those young kids another chance.

Kate Mann, the Crime Prevention Officer for the Oshkosh Police Department says, "Instead of having a state criminal charge, we have an option of writing a citation, and we also have an option of diversion program for the first time juvenile offenders."

Faculty at Oshkosh agree with the idea of this new proposal.  Peterson says, "It will give them another option, one that doesn't ruin their life and doesn't let them off either."

Said ordinance will be presented at a city council meeting at Oshkosh City Hall on Tuesday evening. 

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