§3 - Note
An Act concerning the public school curriculum and supplementing chapter 35 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Legislature finds and declares that:
a. The teenage practice of “sexting,” sending a sexually explicit text message, is a nationwide 1[problem that has perplexed] issue for students,1 parents, school administrators, and law enforcement officials. 1[A Study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released data which indicated that 19% of teens aged 13 to 19 had sent a sexually-suggestive picture or video of themselves to someone via email, cell phone, or through another form of online interaction, while 31% had received a nude or semi-nude picture from someone else.]1
b. What many teens do not realize is that, by law, a sexual image of any person under the age of 18 is child pornography. Prosecutors in several states have charged teenagers who have engaged in this behavior with criminal offenses, including distribution of child pornography.
c. Pursuant to a law which became effective in April, 2012, the New Jersey Legislature provided for a diversionary program for juveniles who are criminally charged for “sexting” or posting sexual images and permits them to participate in a remedial education or counseling program as an alternative to criminal prosecution.
d. Beyond the legal consequences of this behavior, however, sexting also has significant non-legal consequences including, but not limited to, the effect on relationships, loss of educational and employment opportunities, and being barred or removed from school programs and extracurricular activities.
e. Because of the unique characteristics of cyberspace and the Internet, a single sext has the potential to cause long-term and possibly unforeseen consequences, and result in severe embarrassment, ridicule, cyber-bullying, and lasting mental and emotional trauma.
f. 1[Teachers, guidance counselors, and school officials are having to contend with and care for panic-stricken and depressed victims of malicious sexts who will not return to class, and may even resort to self-inflicted injury or suicide.
g.]1 It is imperative that students understand at a young age the severity of sending sexually explicit text messages and the impact that these actions have on the students themselves, their victims, and the community and that they receive instruction on how and why to refrain from this very dangerous behavior.
2. A board of education shall include instruction on the social, emotional, and legal consequences of distributing 1and soliciting1 sexually explicit images through electronic means once during middle school in an appropriate place in the curriculum as part of the school district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. The Commissioner of Education shall provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources designed to implement this requirement.
3. This act shall take effect in the first full school year following the date of enactment.
Requires school districts to include instruction on consequences of distributing and soliciting sexually explicit images through electronic means as part of New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.