DALLAS COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – When there is news about the exchange of sexually explicit text messages between a teacher and student most people would think the interaction should not be happening and is probably against the law.
Imagine the surprise of many when a North Texas court rules that some ‘sexting’ is actually free speech and protected by the law.
The argument centers not on a teacher’s conduct with sexting a student, instead the focus is on a law deemed a violation of the first amendment. It did not matter if the then 30-year-old teacher was exchanging sexually-laced online text messages with a 13-year-old.
That was the allegation facing a former teacher who worked at a school in the Everman Independent School District.
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office will not prosecute because the law the teacher reportedly violated is a violation itself.
According to Dallas attorney Chad Ruback, the state criminal appeals court deemed a section of the Online Solicitation of a Minor Law a violation of free speech.
“It covers just too much stuff,” Ruback said. “The court of criminal appeals said hey listen, sending a picture of Zeus, or even not a picture, even a text, even a paragraph from Greek mythology, a written paragraph, that would in theory be prohibited by this law. The court of appeals just held that was way too broad.”
In the Everman case, the DA’s office said the legal circumstances caused the department to drop the charges. Others see the ruling as sending the wrong message.
Dallas resident Don Reagor said, “I think it is just the same thing as a predator… messing around with young kids at a school. That’s the way I feel about it.”
In Dallas County, prosecutors said the appeals court decision wouldn’t stop their cases. “The Court of Criminal Appeals has only limited one, and ruled unconstitutional, one small part of the law,” said prosecutor Brooke Grona-Robb. “Our office continues to look at that behavior and look at that specific conduct, to determine whether there are other offenses that might be violated.”
The court said online solicitation law doesn’t address “specific conduct” — therefore infringing on an individual’s rights to protected speech. To quote a section of the law, “sexual expression that is indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment.”
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