Oshkosh Common Council passes sexting ordinance

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Oshkosh is the latest community in Northeast Wisconsin to put a teen sexting ordinance on the books. The municipal violation would focus on education and the dangers of sexting instead of punishment.

The Oshkosh Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to enact the ordinance.

Almost 27% of teens are receiving sexts, and about 15% are sending the sexually explicit images, videos or messages electronically, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.

The City of Kaukauna looked to curb the growing concern about a year and a half ago.

According to Assistant Police Chief Jamie Graff, "We want kids to understand that it's inappropriate, it is wrong, it's dangerous, it can affect them in the future, but on the other hand we didn't want to make it a felony and really screw up their future, either."

Kaukauna was one of the first communities in Northeast Wisconsin to enact a teen sexting ordinance that issues the offender a municipal violation instead of charging them with a criminal offense.

Graff says, "Families are able to take their kids to court and work with the municipal court judge on some options. It could be maybe community service, it could be some counseling if that's what the family feels is appropriate."

Kaukauna Police say its school liaison officers issue about a dozen of these municipal violations each year and it's pleased with how the program is operating.

Oshkosh is hoping to have the same kind of success.

"We really want to focus on educating kids about the dangers of this, that this is not acceptable behavior and that there are real consequences," says Officer Kate Mann.