What is the sexting
law for minors?
By Amanda Tonoli
Mon, March 13, 2017
EAST PALESTINE - After a sexually explicit video was sent to various
students’ cellphones at East Palestine High School, high-school
administration and police found themselves in the midst of an
investigation and a response.
Schools Superintendent Traci Hostetler said she was made aware of the
situation Feb. 27 and immediately contacted police.
“The police spent all day [Feb. 28] with my high-school principal
conducting an investigation, and we are just supporting them however we
can to get to the bottom of situation.”
She added the investigation that involved the collection of 27 student
cellphones is a police investigation, not a high-school investigation.
Hostetler said, however, the serious issue is not specific to East
“This is not an East Palestine issue; it’s a high-school issue,” she
said. “It’s unfortunate this is an issue that high schools across
America face today.”
Hostetler said amid the investigation East Palestine school
administrators are trying to “express to students how damaging sending
those kinds of things can be – to create and disseminate those explicit
At this point, she said no school punishment will be doled out.
The incident left parents and students wondering what the law says
about such situations.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said
although he is unable to comment on the situation specifically,
“cellphones can be a piece of evidence and are subject to the laws of
the state of Ohio and case law promulgated by the state of Ohio.”
According to Ohio Revised Code Section 2981, “Property is subject to
forfeiture to the state or a political subdivision under either the
criminal or delinquency process [if the] contraband [is] involved in an
Canfield Police Chief Chuck Colucci said the law is written clearly:
“We are able to seize the phones [as evidence], and we do need a
warrant to extract information unless we receive consent from the
He added, “Any time juveniles are sharing explicit videos or pictures,
[police] will investigate.”
Tierney said although a number of outcomes can result from the
situation dependent upon specifics that occurred and what the
investigation reveals, some of those outcomes could include charges of
illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a misdemeanor; or
pandering, a felony.
Austintown schools Superintendent Vince Colaluca said like many local
districts, Austintown is safeguarded in similar situations by its
“Strict guidelines with cellphones outline what is allowed,” he said.
“Ultimate use of cellphones is up to the teacher.”
The violation of the accepted-use policy or “appropriate use of
electronic devices” can result in detentions, suspensions, the
collection of the device or “the involvement of local law enforcement.”
“If instructed to turn over a device, students are expected to do so
without argument or confrontation,” the handbook states.
Colaluca said inappropriate use can be something as miniscule as a
student’s taking a picture of another student who does not agree.
In the case of sexting or “anything in the nature of a child
pornography,” however, Colaluca said administrators “report straight to
“Our principals know not to go through cellphones on their own,” he
said. “They go right to resource officers.”
Colaluca added the accepted-use policy is the district’s way of meeting
“We have to find a way to teach acceptable ways to use cellphones,” he
said. “Our philosophy here is we have to understand the way kids have
grown up is different than how we did. We were educated differently.
Our brains work differently. Kids grow up differently than we did in
this digital age. These devices are a part of society, and I would
rather help and partner with parents to teach children how to use them
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